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13 million locked in ancient Chinese city amid massive Covid surge

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China's health ministry said that large-scale citywide testing is being carried out in Xian (File photo)

Starting Wednesday midnight, as many as 13 million residents of the Chinese city of Xian have been put under a strict lockdown as the country faces one of the biggest outbreaks of Covid-19 cases in the past few months.

China's health ministry said that large-scale citywide testing is being carried out in Xian, once the starting point for the ancient Silk Road and also the provincial capital of Shaanxi province.

Epidemic prevention and control work in Shaanxi has reached a "critical moment", said Liu Feng, Director of the Shaanxi Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, at a news conference in Xian before the lockdown.

The full lockdown was announced by the Xian government after the city saw a massive surge in the Delta variant of Covid with 52 new cases reported on Wednesday.  Till Tuesday, the city had around 150 active Covid cases since December 9.

The outbreak in the city is now majorly responsible for the rising Covid-19 cases in the country.

According to the government order, only one household member can be allowed outside once every two days to purchase necessities.

The Chinese authorities suspect that the latest surge could be linked to a flight arriving from Pakistan.

"Liu Feng, dean of the Shaanxi Provincial Disease Control and Prevention Centre, said on Tuesday that they conducted gene sequencing on samples of 36 local cases, and found that the virus causing these infections is highly similar to the imported case detected on December 4 on flight PK854 from Pakistan," reported Chinese daily Global Times.  

The city has also registered several news cases of hemorrhagic fever, a deadly disease caused by the rat-borne hantavirus.

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