China’s popular tourist city of Xi’an has suspended international passenger flights following a major COVID-19 outbreak, the airport authority said on Thursday, even as officials rejected fears of a virus resurgence.
The city had already suspended domestic flights and has been in a lockdown since early December.
The foreign flight suspension was enforced starting Wednesday, the Xi’an Xianyang International Airport said. Xi’an, the home of the world famous Terracotta Warrior Museum (Emperor Qinshihuang’s Mausoleum Site Museum) is an important air transportation hub in western China, with international routes connecting 74 major destinations in 36 countries. On December 9, the city reported a locally transmitted COVID-19 case – a staffer engaged in disinfection at a quarantined hotel for inbound flights from the airport.
The city of 13 million has been in lockdown ever since. Many locally transmitted COVID-19 cases have emerged after that positive detection. Viral genome sequencing of locally transmitted COVID-19 cases in the outbreak identified the strains as the highly infectious Delta variant, which is highly homologous with imported cases of an inbound flight on December 4, state-run Xinhua News Agency reported.
Meanwhile, a Chinese health official claimed the spread of the COVID-19 outbreak in Xi’an has been brought under control and a major resurgence of the virus in the city is unlikely. “While more cases might be reported in the future, the threat of a major resurgence in Xi’an has been basically brought under control,” Director of the Health Emergency Centre of the Chinese Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, Li Qun said. “We have seen notable progress in the efforts to control the epidemic,” he said.
Li noted that the number of daily reported cases in Xi’an has gradually declined since the start of this year. Xi’an reported 63 locally transmitted COVID-19 cases on Wednesday. The new cases brought the total number of local cases in the city to 1,856 in the latest resurgence since December 9.
Li attributed the progress in large part to several rounds of mass nucleic acid testing in the megacity, which helped the health authorities identify the infected cases at an early date, adopt targeted control measures, and reduce public stress during the trying times.
On Thursday, China’s National Health Commission said 132 new locally transmitted COVID-19 cases were reported in the country on Wednesday. Of the new local cases, 64 were reported in Henan, 63 in Shaanxi, and five in Zhejiang provinces, the commission said. Also, 57 new imported cases were reported in 12 provincial-level regions, according to the commission. Currently 3,282 COVID-19 patients are receiving treatment, of whom 30 are in severe condition, it said.