Every two days, cleaners clothed in white hazmat suits with duct tape fastened to their bodies cleanse the dormitory halls at the University of Xi’an in China, where they study. Zhang Shengzi, a 24-year-old student, said the odour is so strong that she needs to wait a long time before opening her door again after they have left.
She is unable to leave her room, much alone go to college, and all of her courses are delivered online.
Since December 22, Ms. Zhang’s institution, along with the rest of Xi’an, has been placed under a citywide lockdown. It is the longest lockdown in China since the first one was imposed in Wuhan, where the coronavirus epidemic started over two years ago, and it is the second longest in the world.
Food is being exchanged for eggs and cigarettes in scenes reminiscent of the early days of the epidemic, when hungry inhabitants barter their coffee for instant noodles. An expectant mother and an 8-year-old kid suffering from leukaemia are among those who have been refused access to medical treatment. People in desperate need of life-saving drugs have had difficulty obtaining them.
Since the outbreak began, China has made significant strides in its capacity to control the virus, having vaccinated almost 1.2 billion people and establishing a statewide electronic health database for the purpose of contact tracing.
Authorities in Xi’an claimed success in the city’s virus war on Wednesday, despite widespread dissatisfaction with the situation. Fourteen days into the lockdown, city authorities announced that Xi’an had achieved “zero Covid on a social level,” despite the fact that its 13 million citizens were still unable to leave their homes.
Even the city’s largest international corporations have been impacted by the crisis. Because of the limitations, two of the world’s major memory chip manufacturers, Samsung and Micron, have said that they have had to change operations at their production facilities in Xi’an, possibly causing more disruptions to the already fragile global supply chain.
In its most recent epidemic, Xi’an has recorded 1,800 cases, which is a shockingly low number when compared to the daily case count in the United States. As the globe battles to keep Omicron from spreading, authorities in China have recorded just a few local occurrences of the variation, none of which have been detected in the city of Xi’an.
There are just a few weeks left before the Beijing Winter Olympics and the Lunar New Year celebrations, and it seems that China’s vaccinations are less effective than their Western counterparts, especially when it comes to variations. A decision on mRNA technology for its vaccines has not yet been made by the government of the country, and although booster doses are now readily accessible, their uptake in the country has been slower than that for the original vaccinations.
So far, the experiences have been abysmally negative. For the sake of containing the outbreak, tens of thousands of individuals have been transferred to quarantine sites throughout the country. Several high-ranking municipal officials have been sacked, and the director of Xian’s big data office has been placed on administrative leave.
Residents were unable to enter public hospitals or do everyday activities such as regular Covid testing on Tuesday because the massive health code system that was meant to monitor individuals and enforce quarantines and lockdowns couldn’t manage the volume of traffic.
Mr. Zhao, who had moved in with his parents ahead of the lockdown to assist them in caring for them, stood by and observed while their neighbours bartered for food. Officials arrived in trucks to distribute veggies a few days ago, and they were announced via loudspeaker as they approached. Among the items Mr. Zhao and his parents received were two plastic bags that included a head of cabbage, a white radish, three potato cubes, one carrot, and two zucchini.
Beijing’s viral approach is becoming more unsustainable in the eyes of opponents, who point to the agony, suffering, and bewilderment that have resulted from the lockdown. “No one is an island in this world,” wrote Zhang Wenmin, a former investigative journalist who now resides in Xi’an. “No one is an island in this world.” Ms. Zhang, who goes under the pen name Jiang Xue, shared her experiences during her first ten days in detention on social media.