China on Wednesday ordered the confinement of up to 13 million people in neighborhoods and workplaces in the northern city of Xi’an after recording a surge in coronavirus cases, prompting panic purchases weeks before the country celebrate the Winter Olympics.

City authorities ordered all residents to stay home, unless they have a compelling reason to leave their homes, and suspended public transportation service to and from the city, except for special cases, media reported. state communication.

One person from each home will be allowed to go out every two days to buy essential products, says the order, which took effect at midnight on Wednesday, although it was not reported how long it will be in effect.

Social media posts recorded panic purchases of food and household products, while the government reported that more supplies will be distributed in the city on Thursday.

Xi’an reported another 63 cases of local transmission in the past 24 hours on Thursday, bringing the total in the city to at least 211 infections in the past week. Xi’an is the capital of Shaanxi Province, renowned for its imperial relics, as well as being an important industrial center.

China is also facing outbreaks in several cities in the eastern province of Zhejiang, near Shanghai, although isolation measures in that area have been more limited.

China has taken strict measures to control the pandemic as part of its zero transmission program, leading to frequent lockdowns, universal use of masks and large-scale diagnostic tests.

Although the policy has not been entirely successful and has caused significant disruption to travel and business activities, Beijing holds it responsible for largely containing the spread of the virus.

Those measures have been toughened in recent days leading up to the start of the Beijing Winter Olympics on February 4.

Xi’an’s restrictions are among the toughest since China imposed a strict lockdown on more than 11 million people in and around the central city of Wuhan in 2020 after the new coronavirus was first detected in 2019.

China has reported 4,636 deaths and a total of 100,644 COVID-19 infections.

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