Beijing fights virus, but Xi’an blockade partially lifted

Beijing reported five new cases of locally transmitted coronavirus on Wednesday, raising fears of a new wave less than three weeks before the opening of the Winter Olympics (4-20 February).

The Chinese capital has suspended thousands of flights and stepped up testing after the first case of the micron variant was reported last Saturday.

City health officials said Wednesday that five new infections had been reported in the past 18 hours, bringing the total to eight.

“The current situation of epidemic prevention and control is rigorous and complicated,” Xu Hejian, a spokesman for the Beijing municipal government, told a news conference.

“The micron strain is related to the delta variant, which carries greater risks,” he added.

“Four of the new cases were cold room workers,” he said.

Chinese authorities have adopted a strict “covid zero” policy with restrictions and border blockades, while pressure is mounting with several outbreaks in the country ahead of the Winter Olympics from 4 to 22 February 2022.

Some delegations and athletes have already started to arrive for the Games, which will take place within a kind of rigid health bubble that separates participants from the general population.

With several cases reported in Beijing, schools started the Lunar New Year holidays earlier than expected.

However, Chinese authorities resumed the service of some public transport in Xi’an, partially lifting the strict confinement decreed almost a month ago in this city to eradicate a focus of covid-19.

Since Tuesday, public transport has been reactivated in so-called “low risk” areas, officials said.

Public television CCTV broadcast images of trains leaving Xi’an and some passengers entering the station.

Since the end of December, the 13 million inhabitants of this historic city in northern China have been under strict home confinement due to the emergence of an outbreak of hundreds of cases of covid-19.

Local authorities have come under fire for their handling of the outbreak, including the management of food supplies and outrage over the miscarriage of a woman who was kicked out of a hospital for failing to take a recent anti-covid test.

For the first time in weeks, the former imperial capital, known for its Terracotta Warriors, has not reported any new coronavirus cases.

The confinement of this city is the strictest and longest in China since applied in early 2020 in Wuhan (center), where the coronavirus was first detected.

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