BEIJING (Reuters) -A Chinese city has locked down its 1.1 million residents after reports of new coronavirus cases as officials rushed to contain even small outbreaks just over four weeks before the Winter Olympics begin.
The curbs in the city of Yuzhou, in the central province of Henan, are similar to those imposed for nearly two weeks in the industrial hub of Xian, which has become China’s latest COVID-19 epicentre.
Yuzhou, 700 km (434 miles) southwest of Beijing, has ordered all residents to remain indoors and not to leave town, the local Communist Party said in a statement late on Monday.
“So far, the source of the virus is unknown, the number of cases is unclear … the virus control and prevention situation in our city is very severe,” authorities in Xuchang city, which has jurisdiction over Yuzhou, said in a statement on Tuesday.
“To curb and quash the epidemic within the shortest amount of time is a high-priority political task facing all officials and people in the city,” they said.
The greater Xuchang area reported two locally transmitted infections with confirmed clinical symptoms, and 18 local asymptomatic carriers for Monday, official data showed. It was not clear how many were in Yuzhou.
Vehicles were banned from Yuzhou’s roads unless they have clearance from virus control authorities, and authorities ordered a halt to activity in supermarkets apart from the supply of daily necessities.
Yuzhou’s case count is tiny compared with outbreaks in many other places around the world. But China is keen to keep outbreaks under control ahead of the Feb. 4-20 Winter Olympics, being held in Beijing and the nearby province of Hebei, and the Communist Party’s once-every-five-years congress expected later in the year.
In the northwestern city of Xian, which is almost two weeks into a lockdown, authorities demanded that officials “strictly and properly” implement COVID-19 curbs, while new infections have shown signs of slowing this week.
“We’d rather widen our identification of groups at risk than to overlook a single person,” said Liu Guozhong, head of the Communist Party in Shaanxi province, of which Xian is the capital.
No one should be overlooked during testing in key Xian areas and “household doors” should be closely watched in rural parts of the city to make sure people are complying with travel curbs, Liu was quoted as saying in an article published by the Xian government.
Xian reported 95 local symptomatic cases for Monday, up slightly from 90 the day before but lower than the 150 cases or more per day during the Dec. 25-31 period.
The latest infections bring the tally of local cases in Xian to more than 1,700 since Dec. 9.
Xian is aiming at “zero cases in communities”, a situation in which any new infections are only found among people in quarantine, an official at Xian’s disease control authority told state television.
In areas where infections are concentrated, people who have been in contact with the close contacts of cases should be moved to centralised facilities for quarantine, Xian said on Sunday, citing a virus control expert.
There were no new fatalities in mainland China for Monday, leaving the death toll since the virus first emerged in the central city of Wuhan in late 2019 unchanged at 4,636.
Mainland China has had 102,841 confirmed symptomatic cases as of late Monday, including both local and imported ones.
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