China Lifts Strict COVID-19 Lockdown in Xian After Daily Cases Hit Zero

China Lifts Strict COVID-19 Lockdown in Xian After Daily Cases Hit Zero
People line up to buy food at a booth in Xian, capital of northwest China's Shaanxi Province, on Jan. 17, 2022 during the city's strict lockdown. (Photo: Tao Ming, Getty Images)

The city of Xian, China lifted its COVID-19 lockdown on Monday after a month of imposing some of the toughest public health measures in the world, according to Chinese state media the Global Times. But the lockdown worked. Xian, which has a population of 13 million people, hasn’t had a new case of COVID-19 since three cases were detected on Jan. 20.

The lockdown in Xian, which started on Dec. 23, 2021, attracted international attention as one of the harshest COVID-related public health measures on the planet, and western media ran story after story about how the Chinese people were suffering. Daily cases climbed to a peak of 334 on Dec 27. but started to come back down after the strict measures were put into place.

People in Xian were banned from leaving their homes for weeks, with food deliveries becoming sparse for some elderly people who didn’t know how to use food delivery apps like Meituan and Ele.me. The ban on food shopping was lifted a week ago, but people could still only leave their homes sporadically for essential items or to receive medical care. And anyone caught out without a valid reason was fined, and in at least one case, beaten by police.

While today marks the formal lifting of the lockdown, some restrictions were lifted last week when daily case numbers hit single digits again. Public transportation, which had been suspended, was resumed on Jan. 19, for example. Air travel started to resume on Jan. 22, with the first seven flights taking off from Xian Xianyang International Airport since the lockdown began.

The Xian outbreak is believed to be the delta variant of COVID-19, which is less infectious than the omicron variant that’s currently working its way through Europe, the U.S. and Australia, among plenty of other places. China reported its first case of omicron in Beijing last week.

Whatever you think of the draconian tactics used by the Chinese government, the lockdown worked at suppressing the disease. Xian didn’t record a single COVID-19 death during the lockdown and has recorded just three deaths from the disease since the pandemic began.

While Xian’s COVID-19 outbreak has been brought under control, there are other parts of the country that are dealing with new flare ups. And the country is working hard to contain major outbreaks as it prepares for the Winter Olympics to kick off next month. China reported 57 new symptomatic cases of COVID-19 on Monday, 39 of which were imported and have been in managed quarantine. China does not report asymptomatic cases in its daily totals.

China has reported 105,660 symptomatic cases of COVID-19 and 4,636 deaths from the disease since the pandemic began, according to the country’s National Health Commission. The U.S. has reported 70.7 million cases and over 866,000 deaths.

Residents shop at a supermarket in Qujiang New District of Xian, northwest China's Shaanxi Province, Jan. 15, 2022.  (Photo: Tao Ming, Getty Images)Residents shop at a supermarket in Qujiang New District of Xian, northwest China’s Shaanxi Province, Jan. 15, 2022. (Photo: Tao Ming, Getty Images)

Western media outlets have been confused about what to make of China’s “COVID-zero” strategy, with many westerners pointing out that some people in China struggled to get medical care during lockdown. But it’s not like medical care has been easy to come by with the American government alternative, which has often been to just let the virus rip through the community.

The National Guard has been called up in several states to assist at both hospitals and schools, doctors and nurses are having complete mental breakdowns, and health care systems are being overwhelmed in almost every respect. Roughly a quarter of all American hospitals are experiencing a staffing shortage, according to Rick Pollack, president of the American Hospital Association.

South Dakota is currently reporting a 41% positivity rate for PCR tests. And there are still questions about the long term effects of so-called “long COVID” in people who survive but still struggle with symptoms years after supposedly recovering. And yet Americans are meant to “live with the virus” now as things break down.

PBS Newshour even did a segment about the “human toll” that China’s approach to COVID-19 has had, but it’s tough to see how U.S. media can continue to argue that the American response has been more humane. The Guardian reported on a 92-year-old man in Los Angeles who went to the emergency room in need of a blood transfusion last week and waited for 48 hours, as just one example of how hospitals nationwide are at a breaking point.

The U.S. is currently approaching 1 million dead from COVID-19 and many more suffering from the effects of contracting the disease. Whatever you think of China’s methods at controlling COVID-19 there’s no arguing that they’ve definitely worked. Can the Chinese Communist Party keep up its track record of low infection rates now that omicron has hit the country? Only time will tell.