A Chinese city has received negative feedback on social media after saying it might consider using lockdowns in the case of an influenza outbreak, CNN reported.
Last week, the city of Xi’an, a popular tourist destination in Shaanxi province and the location of the world-famous terracotta warriors, unveiled an emergency response plan that would allow it to close down businesses, schools, and “other crowded locations” in the event of a serious flu outbreak.
This led to a mixture of worry and rage among many social media users who claimed the plan uncomfortably resembled parts of the stringent zero-Covid policies Beijing had put in place throughout the pandemic and which have just lately been abandoned.
A report published in CNN said that on Weibo, China’s version of Twitter, a person argued that it would be better to vaccinate the populace rather than take the opportunity to incite fear.
Another person questioned, “How would people not panic considering that Xi’an’s suggestion to halt business and work activities was issued without specific guidance on the national level to identify the disease?
Although the number of Covid cases in China is declining, the number of flu cases has increased nationwide, and some pharmacies are finding it difficult to keep up with the demand for flu medications.
The emergency action plan for Xi’an won’t always be used though. Instead, it describes four levels of severity for future outbreaks and how the city of nearly 13 million people will respond to each.
At the first and highest level, “The city can lock down affected regions, implement traffic quarantines, and suspend production and economic activity.” Furthermore, crowded areas including malls, theatres, libraries, museums, tourist destinations, and other gathering places will remain shut.
At this degree of emergency, all schools and nurseries would be closed, and they would be in charge of monitoring the health of the children and students.
The response comes as Beijing’s central government has underlined the necessity of reopening the nation after all Covid restrictions were lifted in January.
China has implemented some of the strictest Covid regulations in the world throughout the pandemic, including lockdowns that lasted for months in certain cities.
Notwithstanding mounting evidence of the harm being done to its economy, it was also among the last nations in the world to abolish practises like mass testing and lengthy border quarantines.
According to CNN, 13 million people were imprisoned in their houses for weeks at a time in Xi’an itself between December 2021 and January 2022, and many were left without food and other necessities. Medical service accessibility was also impacted.
A severely pregnant woman was turned away from a hospital on New Year’s Day because she lacked a valid Covid-19 test, shocking and infuriating the nation. Two hours later, when she was eventually admitted, the woman miscarried.
China had experienced a series of protests over its zero-Covid policy just before it lifted its limitations on the epidemic era.
Many still have vivid memories of being confined to their houses and of panic buying that in certain regions resulted in food shortages, so the idea of a return to Covid-style regulations seems to have struck a nerve.
Several voices, however, urged restraint.
The move’s logic was clear to epidemiologist Ben Cowling of the School of Public Health at the University of Hong Kong.
“I believe that creating backup plans is very reasonable. Although apparently there are multiple reaction levels, I wouldn’t anticipate that a lockdown would be required for the virus,” he said.
Similar thoughts were shared by a user on Weibo, who said, “It is only the revelation of a proposal, not putting it in place. Given that this flu epidemic is hitting us hard, it is very normal to take measures,” CNN reported.
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)
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