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Asia Minute: China’s COVID-19 focus shifts to a historic city

coronavirus test Outbreak China 122621
Andy Wong/AP
People get a swab for the COVID-19 test at a mobile coronavirus testing facility outside a commercial office building in Beijing, Sunday, Dec. 26, 2021. (AP Photo/Andy Wong)

As COVID cases continue to rise across the islands and the country, there are also growing concerns in China. The current focus is a historic city in the center of the country — but there are also broader issues at stake.

The Chinese city of Xi’an is well known for the more than 8,000 terracotta warriors who have been standing guard at the burial site of China’s first emperor for roughly the last 2,000 years.

But these days, it has a more recent and notorious claim to fame — as the center of the country’s worst outbreak of COVID-19 since the virus swept through Wuhan nearly two years ago.

Earlier this month, authorities detected a cluster of cases that they linked to an inbound flight from Pakistan — and a quarantine hotel.

Health officials believe the virus made its way into the community through an infected hotel worker.

Now, the city of 13 million has been locked down for about a week — and the entire city is going through a second round of mandatory testing.

China’s government has been adamant in stamping out cases of the virus with lockdowns, distancing, and other rules that have depressed domestic travel.

Anyone returning from overseas faces a 14-day quarantine.

But health officials face a bigger challenge in the near future: the Lunar New Year — by far the biggest travel period of the year — and one that faces disruptions for the third year in a row.

This year, the Lunar New Year falls on Feb. 1 — three days before the scheduled start of the Beijing Winter Olympics.

Bill Dorman has been the news director at Hawaiʻi Public Radio since 2011.
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