China reports sudden spike in COVID cases ahead of Winter Olympics

The Chinese city of Xi’an is facing tightened lockdown restrictions as the city is witnessing continuous rise in COVID-19 cases. Xian, where 13 million residents are under lockdown for five days, is battling the largest community outbreak in China this year. China is witnessing a spike in COVID-19 cases ahead of Beijing Winter Olympics in February 2022 as authorities reported 162 new locally transmitted infections on Monday, up from 158 on Sunday. Xian reported 150 new local symptomatic coronavirus cases with officials warning that people flouting rules on travel or testing could face detention and fines. The new case number marks the highest count of local symptomatic infections since the daily bulletin provided by the National Health Commission started to classify asymptomatic carriers separately from March last year.

Since authorities imposed a lockdown on Xi’an on Thursday last week, residents have not been allowed to leave the city without permission from their employer or authorities. From Monday, local authorities said, no vehicles are allowed on the roads unless they are for virus control or for people’s livelihoods and violators could face up to 10 days in police detention and 500-yuan fines. The lockdown is the first time China has implemented such severe measures since 2020, as China continues to pursue a “zero Covid” strategy to stamp out all local infections ahead of the Beijing Winter Olympics in February 2022.

Xian authorities have not announced any infections with the Omicron variant among the 635 confirmed cases in the city from Dec. 9 to Sunday. China has detected only a handful of Omicron infections from international travelers. According to media reports, the fourth round of mandatory testing day was underway in Xi’an as hundreds of health workers were deployed to detect new infections along with thousands of volunteers in anti-COVID efforts. Xian has also launched a city-wide disinfection campaign, with workers spraying pathogen-killing solutions onto roads and buildings.

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