BEIJING (AFP) – The Chinese megacity of Xi’an has partially resumed public transport, according to official announcements, after millions were confined to their homes for weeks because of a coronavirus outbreak.
The easing of transport rules – including the resumption of some inter-city train routes – comes just before the Lunar New Year holiday later this month, traditionally a period of mass travel.
Chinese officials have pursued a strict “zero-Covid” approach to containing the virus, with tight border restrictions and targetted lockdowns, a strategy that has come under pressure as multiple clusters have flared across the country ahead of next month’s Winter Olympics.
Some 13 million Xi’an residents were placed in lockdown in mid-December 2021 as cases spiked, but the historic city reported no new local cases yesterday for the first time in weeks.
Local authorities said public transport had resumed in “low-risk” areas from Tuesday.
Trains from Xi’an to popular destinations such as Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou have “basically resumed operations” as well, state broadcaster CCTV said yesterday.
CCTV added that the number of commuters at the city’s train stations – mainly students and migrant workers – was increasing as well.
Xi’an’s flare-up was China’s biggest in months.
Local authorities came under fire for how they handled it – with supply issues and medical tragedies affecting residents, including a pregnant woman who miscarried after being denied access to a hospital because she lacked a recent coronavirus test.
Yesterday’s absence of cases suggests the current outbreak is coming under control.
But other outbreaks involving both the Delta and Omicron variants have since appeared in Beijing, the eastern port city of Tianjin and the southern manufacturing hub of Guangdong.
The Beijing outbreak, which is currently limited to a handful of reported cases, is significant, with the capital set to host the Winter Olympics in just weeks.
International delegates, media and some athletes have already begun arriving for the Games, which will be held in a strict bubble that separates anyone involved in the Olympics from the wider population.
With several local cases reported in Beijing, schools have started their Lunar New Year holidays earlier than expected, according to reports.