China reported 140 new cases of coronavirus on Saturday, the highest number in four months, as authorities rush to contain the outbreak in several regions, including the city of Xi’an, where millions of people are detained.
Of the 140 new infections, 87 were transmitted locally, according to a statement from the National Health Commission, up from 55 the day before.
Most of the infections occurred in the city of Xi’an, Shaanxi Province (northwest), where 13 million people have been isolated since Thursday.
China is on high alert as it prepares to host the Winter Olympics in February in the capital, Beijing.
As the state has reduced the number of cases to a minimum thanks to a “zero Covid” strategy that includes border restrictions, lengthy quarantines and targeted closures, cases have increased in recent weeks.
CCTV public radio footage on Saturday showed long queues outside testing centers in the city of Xi’an, as authorities scrambled to stop the latest outbreak.
Under strict containment rules, since Thursday, families in Xi’an are no longer allowed to send one person outside every two days to buy basic necessities. Residents must obtain special permission from their employer or local authorities to leave the city.
The city of Xi’an has recorded 330 locally transmitted asymptomatic cases since the first case was reported on December 9, 2021, a small number compared to outbreaks elsewhere in the world.
But China’s Disciplinary Authority said on Friday that 26 Xi’an government officials had been sanctioned for failing to prevent the virus.
Local authorities who are believed to have failed to control the virus in their area are regularly expelled or reprimanded as part of Beijing’s tough approach.
Xi’an’s infection cases have so far spread to five other cities, including Beijing, according to state media, raising concerns about the speed of the virus’s spread in the country.
China has reported 100,871 asymptomatic cases and less than 5,000 deaths since the virus first emerged in Wuhan in late 2019.
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