New outbreaks of Covid have led to the isolation of millions of people in China



Tens of millions of people were locked down in China on Wednesday as businesses in a major tourist city were forced to close their doors, with new clusters raising fears of a return to general restrictions.

On Wednesday, health authorities reported more than 300 infections, with clusters found in the historic northern city of Xi’an, home of the Terracotta Army, as well as in the country’s largest city, Shanghai.

The new cases and the official response have heightened fears that China could return to the strict lockdowns seen earlier this year, when Beijing’s tough coronavirus policy locked down tens of millions of people for weeks on end.

On Tuesday in Shanghai, some residents took to social media to report that they were receiving government food rations, a throwback to a long spring confinement.

“Let me tell you a scary story: Putuo District is shipping vegetables again,” one resident said in a viral WeChat post.

“I am so nervous, the epidemic has destroyed my youth. I’m about to go crazy,” wrote another Weibo user from Shanghai.

Officials launched a new round of mass testing in more than half of the city’s districts after recovering cases from the weekend, closing all karaoke bars on Wednesday after some infections were linked to six such places.

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And Xi’an – a historic city of 13 million that went through a month-long lockdown late last year – was again placed under “interim control measures” after 29 infections were found since Saturday, mostly among waste workers.

Public entertainment venues, including pubs, internet cafes and karaoke bars, will close their doors from midnight Wednesday, the city said in a notice.

State media showed images of Xi’an residents queuing for tests after midnight Tuesday, emphasizing that the city is not under lockdown.

Officials blamed the city’s outbreak on sublineage BA.5.2 of the virus. Omicron variantwhich is more contagious and evades immunity.

“All positive infections are the BA.5.2 branch of the Omicron variant, and epidemiological tracing work is still well under way,” health spokesman Xi’an Ma Chaofeng said at the briefing.

The new outbreaks present a new challenge to President Xi Jinping, who last week reaffirmed his commitment to zero Covid despite rising economic costs.

As of Monday, at least 114.8 million people are in full or partial lockdown across the country, a sharp jump from 66.7 million last week, Japanese bank Nomura estimates.

More than 1,000 infections have been reported in central Anhui since last week, dozens of which have spread to Shanghai’s neighbor Jiangsu, threatening the Yangtze Delta’s main manufacturing region.

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