Zero Covid strategy to exhaustion in Chinese city of Xi’an

Ting still doesn’t know why she’s been shivering for three days in a mountain hotel three hours from her campus. On the night of Tuesday, December 28 to Wednesday, December 29, the students of Xi’an Aeronautical University were awakened by a knock on the door of their dormitory: they were sent to quarantine. A first year student, Ting prepared a few things. After a three-hour drive, the students discovered the scenery of Mount Taibai, west of Xi’an. A large hotel, closed for the winter, was chosen to accommodate the 400 students. Outside, it’s minus 10 degrees. In his room, the air conditioning does not work. ” Why were we transferred to this isolated place? Are we in contact? », asks Ting (the first name has been changed). Alone in her room, she wrapped herself in her warmest clothes and the thin blanket of the bed. Soon, it’s her stomach that claims: she was not fed the first day. “The school supervision did not answer us, only our teachers helped us. But above all they asked us to delete our posts on Weibo [équivalent chinois de Twitter] because it damages the reputation of the school », Says the young girl.

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After nine days of strict confinement, the population of Xi’an, a metropolis in central China, is suffering. Monday, as the cases accumulated, the municipality further tightened containment: residents no longer even have the right to leave their homes to do shopping. After the discovery of a first case of the Delta variant, which passed through the city’s airport on December 9, the usual measures for tracing and isolating contact cases failed: the authorities decided, on December 22, to impose strict confinement on the 13 million inhabitants of the agglomeration.

For most of them, the only daily outing is to take a PCR test. The city has set up 12,000 testing stations and deployed 160,000 employees to administer them. Others have been assigned to disinfect all public spaces in the city, a measure of disputed effectiveness. With almost a month before the Winter Olympics in Beijing, from February 4, China is redoubling its efforts to maintain its zero tolerance strategy against Covid-19, whatever the cost. On December 24, 26 officials from Xi’an Municipality were sanctioned for failing to control the epidemic and trace cases.

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