COVID-19 outbreak in Xi’an largely put under control, as authorities plug loopholes
Published: Jan 08, 2022 06:36 PM
Residents line up to take a nucleic acid test on Tuesday in Xi'an, Northwest China's Shaanxi Province. Photo: VCG

Residents line up to take a nucleic acid test on Tuesday in Xi'an, Northwest China's Shaanxi Province. Photo: VCG

The Children's Hospital in Xi'an, Shaanxi Province on Saturday opened a 24-hour green passage for seriously ill children, while allowing sick children and their guardians to receive treatment after conducting nucleic acid testing at the hospital, scrapping the prior requirement to present a negative test result taken within 48 hours.

The adjustment to patient admissions policy came after the delayed treatment of patients resulting in tragic consequences even after two years' experience in combating COVID-19, authorities continue to plug loopholes in coronavirus prevention and control in the city.

On Thursday night, Chinese Vice Premier Sun Chunlan said that she felt "heartbroken" as she saw short-comings in current anti-epidemic work in Xi'an, in particular the lack of access to critical medical care. The health of city residents remains a priority, including non-Covid-19 related medical care.

After Sun's remarks, Xi'an health commission officials apologized to the 13 million city residents for failing to properly handle the balance between virus prevention and broader public health needs. The first apology was made to a pregnant woman who lost her eight-month unborn child after being left waiting outside a hospital for two hours.

During Saturday's press conference, Guo Yanhong, a senior official from the National Health Commission, stressed that hospitals cannot delay or reject treatment of non-Covid patients, especially those who are seriously ill.

For special conditions, such as hemodialysis patients, tumor patients undergoing radiotherapy and chemotherapy, as well as pregnant women and newborns who need regular treatment and follow-up check-up, medical institutions should be designated to ensure continuous medical care is available, Guo said.

The official stressed medical treatment should not be denies or delayed using the excuse of epidemic prevention and control, but the problems in individual organizations and staff could not represent the group, neither could it negate the contribution and dedication of the health system and the wider community of health workers.

According to the press conference, the latest flare-up in Xi'an is largely put under control , with daily caseloads falling and the number of high risk neighborhoods declining. Community transmission has reached dynamic zero-case and anti-epidemic work has attained tangible results. 

Another press conference held by Xi'an city government on Saturday also assured its residents to be patient as the situation is improving. The city reported 46 new cases on Saturday and local officials said stores, logistics will soon reopen based on local anti-epidemic situation. 

According to data released by the Shaanxi Provincial Health Commission, from Tuesday to Friday, 43 cases are close contacts of a single case confirmed on Tuesday, January 4. Experts said the reason why there is a super spreader is that they are identified in the early stage of infection and have a strong ability to detoxify.

Xu Zhengbin, a senior official from the National Development and Reform Commission said that the price of grain and oil is stabilizing in the city, the price of pork has risen slightly but vegetables have fallen considerably. The number of transport vehicles for fresh agricultural products into Shaanxi has recovered steadily, and the problem of delivery is being addressed.

Local residents shop at a supermarket in Xi'an, Shaanxi Province on December 21, 2021. Photo: VCG

Local residents shop at a supermarket in Xi'an, Shaanxi Province on December 21, 2021. Photo: VCG

The Xi'an Market Supervision authority on Friday publicized several cases in which some companies were punished for hoarding, price gouging, selling poor quality goods and fake advertising during the flare-up. 

For example, a Yonghui supermarket was fined for selling outdated food and a medicine company was punished for price gouging for facial masks. However, the case of Hema Fresh, a leading retail brand under Alibaba Group, triggered questions from locals.

The market supervision authority said a store located in Xi'an's economic development district was found to "place unclean eggs at a workshop table" and "mix staff clothes with bread." With the store's operation room strewn in mess, in violation of the country's law on food safety.

But residents in Xi'an told the Global Times on Saturday that they felt that such punishment was heavy handed as Hema Fresh has been supportive during the city lockdown.

"During the past two-week quarantine, we were suffering from inadequate food supply during the first couple of days. I would snap up vegetables on Hema Fresh's app on 8 am every morning," a local resident surnamed Ma said. 

Hema Fresh of Alibaba Group told the Global Times Saturday that the company accepts government requirements and has made comprehensive rectifications to issues raised by market authorities. The company will strictly implement food processing safety regulations.

A total of 15 Hema Fresh locations in Xi'an have delivered essential goods and commodities for residents of more than 300 neighborhoods, according to earlier reports.

"The punishment shows that our government is stepping up efforts in dealing with issues during the resurgence, especially those related to unscrupulous store owners who have profited from the crisis. But the government should also try to avoid excess law enforcement," Ma said.