According to Bloomberg, the western Chinese city of Xi’an has begun widespread disinfection measures since late Sunday to counter a jump in Covid infections that forced the lockdown of 13 million residents.
Authorities locked down Xi’an last week on concerns that the virus had been spreading under the radar with many of the transmission routes unknown.
Even so, local media quoted Zhang Boli, a senior medical adviser to the Chinese government on Covid, as saying it is still possible to get the outbreak under control by the end of January, before the Olympics.
Authorities are spraying disinfectants across the city and asking residents to close windows and avoid touching architectural surfaces and vegetation on streets. Private cars are not allowed on roads. The move came as daily infections spike to around 150 on Sunday and Monday, as health authorities seek to uncover more cases with a fourth round of mass testing.
The 2022 Winter Olympics are set to kick off in Beijing Feb. 4. China on Monday reported a total of 162 domestic Covid infections, with 150 of those from Xi’an, the highest daily caseload since Jan. 22. A surge of that scale is rarely seen in China, which is the only major country in the world still aggressively trying to eliminate the virus via closed borders and stringent domestic curbs under what’s called a Zero Covid strategy.
The Xi’an outbreak, which has seen more than 600 cases in less than three weeks and is being blamed on the delta variant, underscores the difficulty China faces in returning domestic infections to nil as the virus mutates to forms more capable of escaping through stringent containment measures.
The nation has also found a handful of omicron infections among travelers from other countries but hasn’t seen the even more infectious and immunity-evading variant spreading into the community.