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Date: 7 January 2022 Author: Patryk Szczotka
Xian Starts New Year in Quarantine
Residents of Xian, one of China’s largest and oldest cities, started the calendar New Year not with lavish celebrations but complete isolation. The metropolis ordered more than 13 million of its residents to self-isolate.
The restrictions were imposed on December 22, 2021, when as much as 140 COVID-19 cases were reported in the city (since December 12).[i] By January 2022, this number rose to 1,573.[ii] The imposed restrictions initially allowed people to leave their households every two days to buy necessities, but later the residents were completely banned from leaving their homes (except for COVID-19 testing).[iii] Moreover, the city suspended dining at restaurants and mass events as well as closed non-essential businesses and ordered employees to work remotely.[iv] All domestic flights and most trains originating in Xian were canceled.[v] Residents were forced to rely solely on supplies provided by the government and online delivery services. Frequent delays and problems with deliveries have sparked frustration among the Chinese. It is best demonstrated by the popularity of the “It is difficult to buy groceries in Xian” hashtag (#西安买菜难#), which was used more than 370 million times by January 2, 2022.[vi]
The situation in the city has sparked discontent not only among its residents, but also among senior Chinese Communist Party (CCP) officials. The Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI) announced that 26 people in Xian were held accountable for their inadequate efforts to prevent and control COVID-19, but did not specify their punishment.[vii] Additionally, Xian’s Communist Party committee suspended Liu Jun, Director and Party Chief of the Xian Big Data Resources Administration, for failing to fulfill his duties. This took place after the second crash of the COVID-19 contact tracing app used to fight the pandemic.[viii] Using it is mandatory and a QR code must be shown prior to entering many public places or traveling. Cities and their rural areas have unique QR codes.[ix]
Controlling the hotspots prior to the start of the Beijing Winter Olympics is key for the Chinese administration, both for practical and PR reasons. To ensure maximum precautions, a so-called “closed loop” has been put in place already a month before the start of the event. Participants can only exit it if they leave the country or undergo quarantine. The “loop” restricts the movement of people associated with the Games to specific zones in and around the Olympic venues to avoid any contact with the local population.[x] Despite these precautions, isolating new hotspots remains one of the priorities of the government in Beijing. Moreover, it has hailed the effectiveness of harsh restrictions as a triumph over the Western way of fighting the pandemic.[xi]
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