China's Xian city on high alert, imposes travel curbs as COVID-19 cases climb

BEIJING (Reuters) – The northwestern Chinese city of Xian has imposed tight curbs on outbound travel as well as ordinary commuting within the city as a new COVID-19 outbreak sees community cases tick higher, but stopped short of full-scale lockdown as seen in Wuhan last year.

Workers in protective suits stand at an entrance to a university’s residential area under lockdown following the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Xian, Shaanxi province, China December 20, 2021. China Daily via REUTERS

The daily count of domestically transmitted COVID-19 infections with confirmed symptoms in Xian, a city of 13 million, has increased for six consecutive days since Dec. 17. Total local cases were more than 200 during the Dec. 9-22 period, according to Reuters calculations based on official data released on Thursday.

The transmission, caused by the Delta variant, has forced authorities to tell residents not to leave the city, a two-hour flight southwest of Beijing. Those who want to travel need to test negative for COVID-19 before departure, and get clearance from employers or community-level authorities.

Authorities in Xian have not reported any local cases of the Omicron variant.

Starting Thursday, only one person in each Xian household can go out for necessary shopping every two days, while other family members must stay home unless they have essential jobs.

All domestic flights to and from Xian previously scheduled for Thursday have been cancelled, according to data provided by Variflight. Outbound flights from Xian for Friday are still available, online travel booking apps show.

Major China COVID-19 outbreaks in 2021

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For Wednesday, mainland China confirmed a total of 71 local symptomatic cases, including 63 in Xian, according to a statement by the National Health Commission.

There were no new deaths, leaving the national death toll at 4,636.

Mainland China had 100,644 confirmed cases as of Dec. 22, including both local ones and those found among international travellers.

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