Xi’an shows there must be no complacency

People line up to get a nucleic acid test at a testing station in Xi'an, capital of Shaanxi province, on Dec 21, 2021. (PHOTO PROVIDED TO CHINA DAILY)

The pandemic situation on the Chinese mainland has turned grave lately, with Xi'an, capital of Shaanxi province, announcing on Wednesday night that it would start a citywide lockdown following a spike in coronavirus infections.

The country reported 71 new locally transmitted COVID-19 cases the same day, of which 63 were reported in Xi'an. The restrictive measures being taken there-suspending all transport to and from the city apart from special cases and allowing only one person from each household out every two days to buy daily necessities, among others-are the strictest since a lockdown was imposed on Wuhan, Hubei province, early last year.

The restrictions, despite heavily disrupting local businesses and social life, are imperative given how fast the virus can spread. Several cities have already detected cases linked to the latest Xi'an outbreak, including one in Beijing, the host city of the Winter Olympic Games.

Taking such resolute steps to break the chains of transmission as soon as possible not only allows economic and social activities in the rest of the country to stay on normal track, but also ensures that the preparations for the Games proceed smoothly. Doing its utmost to make sure that the sporting event can be staged safely is an international responsibility that China has to shoulder for the good of athletes and visiting delegations from all participating countries.

The fact that the holidays of New Year's Day and Spring Festival, Chinese Lunar New Year, are approaching, which will see a surge in the number of people traveling nationwide and thus increase the risks of the virus spreading, makes the prevention work even more challenging.

Of course there are lessons that can be learned from what is happening in Xi'an, where negative impacts on the economic front and people's lives could have been minimized if safety precautions had been better exercised, the public alert system activated earlier, and prevention and control measures more targeted. The experience the country has accumulated over the past two years and the success it has had in trying to contain the spread of the virus should not be an excuse for complacency.

Now the most pressing task for local officials in Xi'an is to ensure that the prevention and control measures, no matter how rigorous, are people-oriented and effective. They must make sure there are adequate supplies of food grains, oil and vegetables and their prices remain stable. They must also pay special attention to meeting people's medical needs, such as those requiring regular dialysis treatment. Based on experiences elsewhere, it is expected that the city will likely be able to effectively contain the virus in about four weeks.