Chinese city sharply restricts travel to fight Covid outbreak

Beijing (AFP) – The northern Chinese city of Xi'an dramatically tightened Covid travel controls Wednesday to fight a growing outbreak, with people banned from boarding trains without official permission and hundreds of flights cancelled.


With Beijing preparing to host the 2022 Winter Olympics in February, China is on high alert as it fights local outbreaks in several cities.

Xi'an reported 52 new coronavirus cases on Wednesday, bringing the total to 143 since December 9.

From Wednesday, residents are blocked from leaving the city by train without an official letter stating the trip is essential, state broadcaster CCTV reported.

It came a day after the city began testing all of its 13 million residents.

Around 90 residential areas were locked down, a government notice said Tuesday, though it did not specify how many people were affected by them.

Long-distance bus stations were closed and authorities have set up disease control checkpoints on highways out of Xi'an, government notices said.

More than 85 percent of flights to and from the city's main airport have been grounded, according to flight tracker VariFlight.

Inside the city, passenger capacity has been slashed on buses and trains, and schools closed.

Large indoor recreation venues remain shuttered, while the museum housing the world-famous Terracotta Army -- the 2,000-year-old mausoleum of China's first emperor -- has shut until further notice.

China -- where the coronavirus was first detected -- has slowed new cases to a trickle since the middle of last year through a zero-Covid strategy involving tight border restrictions, targeted lockdowns and lengthy quarantines.

Even a single case can lead to a swift imposition of curbs.

The southern city of Dongxing on Tuesday ordered its 200,000 residents to isolate at home after an infection was detected.