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China says ‘positive’ signs as Xi’an cases ease

BEIJING (AFP) – New COVID-19 cases in the locked-down Chinese city of Xi’an fell to their lowest in a week, health officials said yesterday, as residents face their 11th day under strict home confinement.

China has followed a “zero Covid” approach involving tight border restrictions and swift, targetted lockdowns since the virus first surfaced in a central city in late 2019 – but this strategy has been put under pressure in recent weeks with a number of local outbreaks and cases remaining stubbornly high.

There were 122 fresh infections reported yesterday in the northern city – the lowest since December 25, down from 174 on Saturday.

Zhang Canyou, from China’s disease control agency, told state broadcaster CCTV that after several rounds of testing in Xi’an and the impact of the lockdown, they had started to see “some positive changes”.

“We will also make some adjustments to the prevention and control measures in a timely way,” he said.

Families having fun at a skating rink in Beijing, China. PHOTO: AP

However, there are 16 patients in a “severe” condition, according to the National Health Commission.

While low compared to numbers elsewhere, new infections in recent days have reached a high not seen in China since March 2020.

Since December 9 there have been more than 1,500 cases of the Delta strain reported in Xi’an, and health officials said at a press conference on Saturday that two patients are in a critical condition.

China has not recorded any deaths from COVID-19 since January 2021.

Director of Critical Care Medicine of Zhongda Hospital Yang Yi told CCTV there were adequate medical resources.

“We have designated three hospitals for exclusively dealing with the Covid-19 patients in the province, and a fourth one is ready for use,” she said.

Patients in Xi’an range from two months to ninety years old. CCTV footage showed masked patients being led in exercises in hospital wards by a doctor in a hazmat suit.

Residents in the locked-down city said this week they were struggling to find enough food, and local officials have asked residents to exercise “understanding and tolerance” as they smooth out supply.