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2021-12-23 05:58:02

The northwestern city of Xi’an was placed under lockdown midnight Wednesday, as coronavirus infections climbed for the fourth straight day, causing many to experience déjà vu from the pandemic’s early days when authorities sealed off entire cities.

The provincial capital of Shaanxi has reported 227 confirmed local infections since the first case in the current wave was identified Dec. 9, according to the provincial health commission. Of them, 199 infections were reported between Sunday and Thursday morning.

Amid the spike in infections, authorities in Xi’an have ordered the city’s 13 million people to stay at home and avoid unnecessary travel. Only one person per household in communities with no infections is allowed to leave to purchase household goods every two days.

Transportation services within the historic walled city, including long-haul buses, have been suspended. The city has canceled all domestic flights starting Thursday, according to Sixth Tone’s sister publication, The Paper.

Residents said they learned of the lockdown from the government press conference Wednesday afternoon, giving them little time for essential shopping. Videos circulating on microblogging platform Weibo showed locals panic buying at supermarkets, with some users saying the crowds seemed “risky” considering the uptick in cases.

Wang Pili, a local resident, told Sixth Tone that people inundated the supermarkets after the lockdown announcement, adding she was able to buy food supplies to last for about five days.

“When we heard of the lockdown, everyone panicked at first,” Wang said. “But then we realized there are enough supplies at supermarkets … Having experienced last year's pandemic, we can basically respond calmly now.”

Another Xi’an resident surnamed Wang told Sixth Tone that his neighborhood had been under lockdown since Friday after an infection was detected. He has had to rely on an individual vendor for food and vegetable delivery since.

“The person now said he can’t go out after the lockdown,” the 27-year-old said. “Our only hope has vanished. What can I do?”

Earlier this week, citydwellers complained that the provincial health app crashed, disrupting daily activities, as the color-coded system is required to enter almost all public and private venues, as well as board public transportation. The “One Code Pass” app was inaccessible for most of Monday, as locals flooded the system to make appointments for COVID-19 tests and view their results.

Shaanxi introduced some of the strictest measures last month to prevent potential coronavirus spread. The provincial government instituted a minimum 14-day quarantine for domestic travelers entering from “medium- and high-risk” areas or places with at least one confirmed or asymptomatic infection.

China’s current wave of coronavirus infections that started in mid-October after a tourist couple tested positive in Xi’an has led to multiple unrelated outbreaks across the country. The border areas in the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region and the provinces of Heilongjiang and Zhejiang, as well as Shanghai, have seen an uptick in cases in the past months, though they have now been largely contained.

Contributions: Zhu Ruiying; editor: Bibek Bhandari.

(Header image: A man registers to enter a residential area in Xi’an, Shaanxi province, Dec. 23, 2021. People Visual)