(BEIJING) — China ordered the lockdown of as many as 13 million people in neighborhoods and workplaces in the northern city of Xi’an following a spike in coronavirus cases, setting off panic buying just weeks before the country hosts the Winter Olympic Games.
The state media reports that the officials of the city ordered residents not to leave their homes unless there was a compelling reason. They also suspended any transport from and to the city, except for special circumstances.
According to the order, one household member will have access every other day to shop for household necessities. The order went into effect Wednesday night at midnight. There is no information about when it will be lifted.
It was not clear if the new surging variant of the omicron virus or the more widespread delta. China has recorded just seven omicron cases — four in the southern manufacturing center of Guangzhou, two in the southern city of Changsha and one in the northern port of Tianjin.
On social media, panicky buying was reported for groceries and household items. However, the government assured that new supplies will be available. On Thursday, residents posted that the situation was calm and people were allowed to move around the compound where they reside.
Xi’an on Thursday reported another 63 locally transmitted cases over the previous 24 hours, pushing the city’s total to at least 211 over the past week. Xi’an is the capital of Shaanxi province, famed for its imperial relics, as well as a major center of industry.
China also has been fighting a significant outbreak near Shanghai in Zhejiang in eastern China. Isolation measures have been less effective.
China adopted stringent pandemic control measures as part of its strategy to try to eliminate new transmissions. These include frequent lockdowns. universal masking. and mass testing. Although the strategy hasn’t been entirely effective and caused major disruptions to travel and commerce, Beijing attributes it for preventing the spread of the disease.
These measures were taken in advance of the Beijing Winter Olympic Games, which will begin on February 4.
The Xi’an restrictions are some of the harshest since China in 2020 imposed a strict lockdown on more than 11 million people in and around the central city of Wuhan, after the coronavirus was first detected there in late 2019.
China’s COVID-19 has recorded 4,636 deaths.