China Zero-Covid: Xi’an closes again as country finds first cases of new Omicron subvariant BA.5.2

China Zero-Covid: Xi'an closes again as country finds first cases of new Omicron subvariant BA.5.2
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China’s northwestern city of Xi’an, home to 13 million people, was partially shut down on Wednesday after it reported the country’s first outbreak of a highly transmissible new omicron subvariant that is fast to rule the United States and Europe.

The city recorded 18 Covid infections from Saturday to Monday, all of which are of the Omicron BA.5.2 subvariant, local disease control officials said.

BA.5.2 is a sublineage of BA.5, which is already dominant in the US and appears to elude antibody responses in both individuals previously infected with Covid-19 and those who have been fully vaccinated and boosted. according to researchers.

It’s the first time the subvariant has been reported in China, one of the last places in the world still adhering to a strict zero-Covid policy.

On Tuesday, Xi’an officials announced sweeping restrictions that would close parts of the city for seven days starting Wednesday.

Entertainment, sports and cultural facilities including bars, cinemas, gyms, libraries and museums have been closed; Restaurants and large gatherings, from weddings to conferences, have been suspended; All places of worship are closed and religious activities are banned, city official Zhang Xuedong said at Tuesday’s press conference.

According to Zhang, kindergartens and primary and secondary schools have been ordered to start summer vacation early, while universities have been ordered to lock down their campuses.

Authorities also locked down nine neighborhoods classified as “high risk areas” and barred residents from leaving their communities.

“The seven-day temporary control measures are designed to reassure society as much as possible, facilitate mobility… and reduce the risk of cross-infection,” Zhang said.

The announcement caused a stir among some Xi’an residents, many of whom recalled the chaos of the city’s month-long strict lockdown between December and January.

During this citywide lockdown a steady stream of complaints about food shortages, as well as heartbreaking scenes of critical patients – including heavily pregnant women – being denied medical attention shock and anger across the nation.

At Tuesday evening, photos and videos Pictures posted by Xi’an residents on social media showed huge crowds of travelers – many with large bags and suitcases – outside the train station rushing to leave the city.

In Changan District, residents were ordered to undergo a mass test for Covid from midnight to 6am on Wednesday. They may only leave their community, enter public facilities and use public transport after they have taken the tests, in accordance with a government notice.

As of Wednesday, Xi’an has reported 29 local infections.

Meanwhile, authorities in Shanghai on Tuesday ordered mass testing for 12 of its 16 districts in response to a handful of new infections linked to a karaoke bar.

Despite lifting a months-long lockdown on most of its 25 million residents in June, the financial hub is still subject to Covid restrictions ranging from frequent testing to targeted lockdowns.

The city reported 24 locally transmitted Covid-19 cases as of Wednesday.

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