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China reports major drop in virus cases in Xi’an

BEIJING (AP) – China yesterday reported a major drop in local COVID-19 infections in the northern city of Xi’an, which has been under a tight lockdown for the past two weeks that tested the city’s ability to provide supplies for those confined to their homes.

With the Beijing Olympics beginning on February 4, China is doubling down on measures to prevent any new outbreak that could affect proceedings.

People are being told to travel in and out of Beijing only if they absolutely need to and hotels have largely stopped taking new reservations.

Athletes, officials and journalists are entering an “anti-pandemic” bubble as soon as they arrive and will remain within it until the February 4-20 Winter Games are over.

No fans from outside China are permitted and most of the spectators are expected to be drawn from schools, government offices and the military rather than the general public.

A medical worker collects swab sample from a citizen at a mobile testing site in Xincheng District of Xi’an, northwest China’s Shaanxi Province. PHOTO: XINHUA

Underscoring the importance of the event, Chinese President and Communist Party leader Xi Jinping visited Olympic sites around the capital on Tuesday, including the main media centre.

“Staging major international sporting events such as the Winter Olympics will be an opportunity to enhance the influence of Chinese culture, the reach of news reporting and the nation’s soft power,” Xi was cited as saying by the official Xinhua News Agency.

The National Health Commission yesterday announced just 35 new cases in Xi’an, down from 95 the day before.

That marks a steady decline since daily new cases topped 100, prompting officials to retain and in some cases tighten restrictions on people leaving their homes.

Xi’an has seen over 1,600 cases but no deaths in its latest surge, a sign that China’s “zero tolerance” strategy of quarantining every case, mass testing and trying to block new infections from abroad has helped it to contain major outbreaks.

China has also vaccinated nearly 85 per cent of its population, according to Our World in Data. The shots have helped reduce the severity of disease.

The lockdowns, however, are far more stringent than anything seen in the West, and they have exacted a tremendous toll on the economy and the lives of millions of people.

China has reported a total of 102,932 cases nationwide, with the death toll remaining steady at 4,636.

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