Xi'an COVID Lockdown Traps Some in Hotels, Requires Guests to Be Tested Every 2 Days

Thirteen million people in the northeastern Chinese city of Xi'an were put on lockdown as of midnight Wednesday, trapping some guests in hotels and requiring frequent testing after an increase of COVID-19 infections.

Xi'an on Thursday reported 63 new locally transmitted COVID-19 cases, bringing the total cases to over 211 in the past week. The increase in infection caused the city to be put on lockdown as part of China's "zero tolerance" policy.

People staying at nearby hotels were stuck after the lockdown was enforced.

"We are not receiving any new guests, and no present guests are allowed to leave the hotel," said Li, a receptionist at the Hanting Hotel.

Additionally, the Hanting hotel requires guests to be tested for COVID-19 every two days.

For residents of Xi'an, everyone must stay at home. Only one person from each household will be allowed to leave every two days to go shopping for necessary items, according to the government order.

However, social media posts suggest that the restrictions on people leaving their homes aren't being strictly enforced.

It is unknown when the lockdown will end or if the new infections were from the Omicron variant. China reported seven Omicron cases but none in Xi'an.

Beijing, China, COVID-19
China ordered the lockdown of as many as 13 million people in neighborhoods and workplaces in the northern city of Xi'an following a spike in coronavirus cases, setting off panic buying just weeks before the country hosts the Winter Olympics. Above, bicyclists wearing face masks to protect against COVID-19 wait at an intersection in the central business district in Beijing on December 23, 2021. Mark Schiefelbein/AP Photo

The owner of a local bookshop said he had closed 10 days before, "fearing the worsening of the epidemic situation."

"I am now staying at home watching television." said the owner, who gave only his surname, Xiao.

"There will be an impact on our business, and we have no idea how long it will last," said Li.

Movement outside his compound requires permission from the local neighborhood committee, he said. "I think the situation will get better eventually, and I don't worry at all because we have the government behind us," Xiao said.

Though the latest outbreak is 1,000 kilometers (about 620 miles) southwest of the Olympic host city of Beijing, any sign that the pandemic might be worsening in China will raise questions about whether and how it will manage to welcome thousands of athletes, officials and journalists when the Games open in just weeks on February 4.

On the one hand, there is a tremendous amount of national pride and investment riding on the Olympics and few would want a cancellation, postponement or dramatic reimagining at this late stage.

On the other, Chinese authorities have adopted draconian measures throughout the pandemic under their policy of seeking to stamp out every last case—and it's hard to see how welcoming so many people from abroad will square with that strategy.

That "zero tolerance" policy, which has led to frequent lockdowns, universal masking and mass testing, has not been entirely successful. It has resulted in massive disruptions to travel and trade, but Beijing credits it with largely containing the spread of the virus. Overall, China has reported 4,636 deaths and 100,644 cases of COVID-19.

China has also been dealing with a substantial coronavirus outbreak in several cities in the eastern province of Zhejiang near Shanghai, although isolation measures there have been more narrowly targeted.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Xi'an, China, COVID-19 Lockdown
China on Wednesday ordered millions of people locked down in neighborhoods and workplaces in the northern city of Xi'an following a spike in coronavirus cases. In this photo released by China's Xinhua News Agency, residents line up for tests at a COVID-19 testing site in Xi'an in northwestern China's Shaanxi Province, on December 21, 2021. Li Yibo/Xinhua/AP Photo