'Positive' sign for locked-down Xi'an as new virus cases ease

New COVID-19 cases in the locked-down city of Xi'an, northwest China's Shaanxi Province, fell to their lowest in a week, officials said yesterday.
'Positive' sign for locked-down Xi'an as new virus cases ease

Citizens line up for nucleic acid test in Xincheng District of Xi'an, northwest China's Shaanxi Province, yesterday.

New COVID-19 cases in the locked-down city of Xi'an, northwest China's Shaanxi Province, fell to their lowest in a week, officials said yesterday, as residents face their 11th day under strict home confinement.

China has followed a "zero COVID" approach involving tight border restrictions and swift, targeted lockdowns since the virus first surfaced in a central city in late 2019.

There were 122 fresh infections reported yesterday in the historic northwest city – the lowest since December 25, and down from 174 on Saturday.

Of the new cases, 104 were discovered while in quarantine, and 18 were detected during nucleic acid testing.

Zhang Canyou, from China's disease control agency, told CCTV that after several rounds of testing in Xi'an and the impact of the lockdown, they had started to see "some positive changes."

"We will also make some adjustments to the prevention and control measures in a timely manner," he said.

However, there are 16 patients in a "severe" condition, according to the National Health Commission.

While low compared to numbers elsewhere, new infections in recent days have reached a high not seen in China since March 2020.

Since December 9 there have been more than 1,500 cases of the Delta strain reported in Xi'an, and health officials said on Saturday that two patients are in a critical condition.

China has not recorded any deaths from COVID-19 since January 2021.

Yang Yi, director of Critical Care Medicine of Zhongda Hospital, told CCTV there were adequate medical resources. "We have designated three hospitals for exclusively dealing with the COVID-19 patients in the province, and a fourth one is ready for use," she said.

Meanwhile, there were also seven cases reported in Ningbo, eastern Zhejiang Province, yesterday, where a small cluster has been linked to a garment factory.

Elsewhere, the French government announced that it will relax COVID-19 isolation rules from today, in a bid to ease their impact on society and the economy.

Fully vaccinated people who test positive will only have to isolate for seven days regardless of the coronavirus variant they were infected with, but can leave quarantine after five days if they show an antigen or negative polymerase chain reaction test.

There will be no quarantine for fully inoculated individuals who have a close contact test positive. However, people must respect protective measures and "undergo regular testing," French Health Minister Olivier Veran said in an interview with local media.

Until now, those who tested positive in France had to isolate for 10 days with their close contacts also quarantined for a week. The maximum isolation period could be up to 17 days – regardless of the variant – if a household contains a positive case.

The change in rules responds to the need "to take into account the extremely rapid evolution of the spread of the Omicron variant in France."

It should allow a "benefit-risk balance aimed at ensuring the virus is controlled while maintaining socio-economic life," the Ministry of Health said.

Additionally, "the first available virological data" showed "the incubation period of Omicron appears to be faster than previous variants, favoring a possible reduction in the length of isolation."

People who test positive for the virus – but who are not fully vaccinated – must complete a 10-day quarantine but cut to seven should they present a positive antigen or negative PCR test.

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