Covid-free China: Xi’an closes again as first cases of new Omicron BA.5.2 sub-variant found in country

The city has reported 18 Covid cases from Saturday through Monday, all of which are Omicron BA.5.2 subvariant, according to local disease control officials.

BA.5.2 is a sub-lineage of BA.5 that is already dominant in the US and appears to avoid antibody responses both in people previously infected with Covid-19 and in those who have been fully vaccinated and revaccinated. according to researchers.

This is the first time that a subvariant has been reported in China, one of the last places in the world still with a strict zero-coronavirus policy.

On Tuesday, Xi’an officials announced sweeping restrictions that would close parts of the city for seven days starting Wednesday.

Entertainment, sports and cultural facilities, including bars, cinemas, gyms, libraries and museums, were closed; dinners in restaurants and public events, from weddings to conferences, have been suspended; all places of worship have been closed and religious activities banned, city official Zhang Xuedong said at a press conference on Tuesday.

Kindergartens, elementary and high schools have been ordered to start their summer holidays earlier, and universities have been ordered to close their campuses, Zhang said.

Authorities have also placed a lockdown on nine neighborhoods categorized as “high-risk areas”, preventing residents from leaving their communities.

“The seven-day temporary control measures are designed to calm the society as much as possible, reduce mobility … and the risk of cross-contamination,” Zhang said.

The announcement sparked a stir among some Xi’an residents, many of whom recalled the chaos of the city’s month-long lockdown from December to January.

During the citywide lockdown, constant stream of complaints about food shortages, as well as heartbreaking scenes of critical patients, including pregnant women who are denied medical care, caused by shock and anger countrywide.
On Tuesday evening, Photo and video Posted by Xi’an residents on social media showed huge crowds of travelers, many carrying large bags and suitcases, near the train station, rushing to leave the city.
Xi Jinping's quarantine brings heartbreak and dysfunction as political pressure to contain the outbreak grows
In the city’s Changan District, residents were ordered to undergo mass joint testing from midnight to 6 a.m. Wednesday. They are allowed to leave their community, enter public places and use public transport only after they have been tested. government notice.

As of Wednesday, Xi’an has reported 29 local infections.

Meanwhile in Shanghai, authorities on Tuesday ordered mass testing in 12 of 16 districts in response to several new infections linked to a karaoke bar.

While the financial center lifted months-long lockdowns for most of its 25 million residents in June, it remains subject to Covid restrictions from frequent testing to targeted lockdowns.

As of Wednesday, the city has reported 24 cases of local Covid-19 infection.