Chinese officials lifted a month-long curfew on Xi’an and its 13 million citizens on Monday, citing a drop in illnesses ahead of the Winter Olympics in Beijing, which begin in less than two weeks.
Following the finding of more than three dozen cases in the capital, the 2 million people of Beijing’s Fengtai neighborhood were tested. Residential neighborhoods in six additional areas were subjected to targeted testing.
Following the discovery of 25 cases in Fengtai and 14 elsewhere, the administration advised residents in high-risk regions of Beijing not to leave the city. Residents waited in line for testing on snow-covered sidewalks in sub-zero temperatures on Sunday.
According to the state-owned Global Times newspaper, the Beijing Municipal Health Commission also said on Sunday that everyone who purchased drugs for fever, cough, or other diseases over the previous two weeks would be obliged to do a COVID-19 test within 72 hours.
The Olympics are being hosted under tight security measures to keep athletes, workers, reporters, and authorities away from locals. After landing in China, athletes must get immunized or undergo quarantine.
The authorities of Xi’an made the statement on Monday, following the weekend resumption of commercial flights from the city. In the early days of the lockdown, after people were confined to their houses, the major tourism destination and former imperial capital, famous as the site of the Terracotta Warrior statue army, struggled to deliver food to some inhabitants.
When a case of COVID-19 is detected, the governing Communist Party’s “zero tolerance” approach, which demands lockdowns, travel restrictions, and mass testing, is implemented in Xi’an.
Xi’an is around 600 miles southwest of Beijing, where the Olympics begin on February 4th.
Following an outbreak of the delta version of the coronavirus, access to Xi’an was halted on December 22.
Other occurrences caused the authorities to implement travel prohibitions in a number of places, including Tianjin, a port about an hour outside of Beijing. The strict rules are credited with avoiding large-scale epidemics across China, and the highly contagious omicron variety has been documented in only a few cases.
Only 18 new instances of local infection were recorded in China on Monday, including six in Beijing. There are 2,754 active cases of infection in the country, with a total of 105,660 COVID-19 infections and 4,636 fatalities documented.
A number of adjacent provinces, notably Shandong and Hebei, have reported cases connected to the outbreaks in Beijing. A positive test result on a person with no symptoms was reported in Shenyang, Liaoning province, and it was linked to the Beijing clusters.
Despite declining case counts, pandemic measures have been tightened ahead of the Olympics, which require all athletes to be tested before and after arriving in Beijing.
On Monday, organizers announced that 39 of the 2,586 athletes, team officials, and others who came after Jan. 4 tested positive for the virus when they landed at Beijing airport. According to the organizing committee’s website, another 33 persons who had already entered the bubble that separated participants from the general public eventually tested positive.
The statement didn’t indicate who tested positive, just that they were “outside stakeholders,” a word that doesn’t include players or coaches. China requires anyone travelling from outside to be quarantined for 21 days, but has suspended this requirement for those attending the Olympics on the condition that they test negative for the virus.