China says 'positive' signs as Xi'an cases ease

Beijing (AFP) – New Covid-19 cases in the locked-down Chinese city of Xi'an fell to their lowest in a week, health officials said Sunday, as residents face their eleventh day under strict home confinement.


China has followed a "zero Covid" approach involving tight border restrictions and swift, targeted lockdowns since the virus first surfaced in a central city in late 2019 -- but this strategy has been put under pressure in recent weeks with a number of local outbreaks and cases remaining stubbornly high.

There were 122 fresh infections reported Sunday in the historic northern city -- the lowest since December 25, and down from 174 on Saturday.

Zhang Canyou, from China's disease control agency, told state broadcaster CCTV that after several rounds of testing in Xi'an and the impact of the lockdown, they had started to see "some positive changes".

"We will also make some adjustments to the prevention and control measures in a timely way," he said.

However, there are 16 patients in a "severe" condition, according to the National Health Commission.

While low compared to numbers elsewhere, new infections in recent days have reached a high not seen in China since March 2020.

Since December 9 there have been more than 1,500 cases of the Delta strain reported in Xi'an
Since December 9 there have been more than 1,500 cases of the Delta strain reported in Xi'an STR AFP

Since December 9 there have been more than 1,500 cases of the Delta strain reported in Xi'an, and health officials said at a press conference on Saturday that two patients are in a critical condition.

China has not recorded any deaths from Covid-19 since January 2021.

Yang Yi, director of Critical Care Medicine of Zhongda Hospital, told CCTV there were adequate medical resources.

"We have designated three hospitals for exclusively dealing with the Covid-19 patients in the province, and a fourth one is ready for use," she said.

Patients in Xi'an range from two months to ninety years old.

CCTV footage showed masked patients being led in exercises in hospital wards by a doctor in a hazmat suit.

Residents in the locked-down city said this week they were struggling to find enough food, and local officials have asked residents to exercise "understanding and tolerance" as they smooth out supply.

There were also seven cases reported in eastern Ningbo city on Sunday, where a small cluster has been linked to a garment factory.

All flights out of the city to the capital Beijing were cancelled, state media said.