Europe 1 with AFP 2:55 p.m., December 22, 2021

No exit unless there is an imperative reason: China imposed confinement on a city of 13 million inhabitants on Wednesday, due to an epidemic rebound of Covid-19 within 44 days of the Beijing Winter Olympics.

To prevent any spread of the virus, residents will have to "stay at home unless there is a compelling reason" from midnight Thursday (Wednesday 4:00 p.m. GMT), local authorities said.

China imposed confinement on a city of 13 million inhabitants on Wednesday, due to a Covid-19 epidemic rebound 44 days from the Beijing Winter Olympics.

The country has been pursuing a "zero Covid" strategy since last year, which consists of doing everything to limit the occurrence of new cases as much as possible, generally limited to only a few dozen per day.

An epidemic rebound that worries

If these figures may seem derisory compared to those recorded daily in other parts of the world, they are pushing the authorities to redouble their vigilance in the run-up to the Winter Olympics, which will begin on February 4.

Beijing, which hosted the Summer Games in 2008, will become the first city in the world to also host Olympic events in winter.

900 km from the sites, an epidemic rebound has affected the city of Xi'an (north) for two weeks, where 52 additional patients were identified on Wednesday.

To prevent any spread of the virus, residents will have to "stay at home unless there is a compelling reason" from midnight Thursday (Wednesday 4:00 p.m. GMT), local authorities said.

One person per household is, however, allowed to shop "every two days", they said in a statement.

All "non-essential" businesses except supermarkets, convenience stores and medical facilities have been ordered to close. 

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Drastic measures

Xi'an is known for its buried terracotta army, located in the mausoleum of China's first emperor.

The city had already severely restricted travel and started screening its entire population on Tuesday.

About 90 residential neighborhoods had been preventively placed in isolation, without knowing the number of people affected by this measure.

Before the announcement of the lockdown, the residents of Xi'an had since Wednesday morning to be provided with an authorization to take the train and leave the city, according to public television CCTV.

In the air, more than 85% of flights to and from Xi'an have been canceled, according to the specialist site VariFlight.

China, where the first cases of Covid were discovered two years ago, has since largely controlled the epidemic on its soil.

Life has returned to normal since the spring of 2020 and the country has officially recorded only two deaths in over a year.

But at the cost of drastic measures: virtual closure of borders, long mandatory quarantines on arrival, targeted confinements, massive screenings.

Mobile travel tracking applications are also widely used on a daily basis.

However, the country continues to regularly face small sporadic outbreaks, usually contained within a few weeks. 

Already in October, several agglomerations had been confined, including the metropolis of Lanzhou (north-west) and its 4 million inhabitants.

China reported its first case of the highly contagious Omicron variant earlier this month.

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