China locks down 13 million for an outbreak in the hundreds

HONG KONG – China ordered on Thursday the lockdown of an estimated 13 million people in the northwestern city of Xi’an after a spike of untraceable Covid-19 cases, raising new fears that the Omicron variant is starting to spread in the country.

Since December 9, Xi’an has recorded 234 cases while the virus has spread to other cities in Shaanxi and nearby provinces. News reports indicate the viral spread has triggered panic buying of foods and other essentials, just weeks before Beijing hosts the 2022 Winter Olympic Games.

Compared with the 100,000 plus cases per day recorded in the United Kingdom, the number discovered in Xi’an is low. But the clear new spread of the disease has unnerved Chinese policymakers who have adopted a “zero infection” strategy since April last year.

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