First flights leave Chinese city of Xi’an as travel restrictions ease

A worker wearing a protective suit takes a COVID-19 test in north China’s Tianjin Municipality Thursday, Jan. 20, 2022. Officials are still working to stamp out a coronavirus outbreak in nearby Tianjin city as the 2022 Winter Olympics are set to begin in Beijing on February 4. (Chinatopix via AP)

BEIJING (AP) — The first commercial flights in a month took off Saturday from Xi’an in western China as the government eased travel restrictions imposed after a coronavirus outbreak ahead of the month’s Winter Olympics. next in Beijing.

Seven planes took off, according to the Xi’an Xianyang International Airport website. He said four were due to arrive on Sunday.

Access to Xi’an, a city of 13 million people about 1,000 kilometers (600 miles) southwest of Beijing, was suspended on December 22 following an outbreak attributed to the variant coronavirus delta.

The ruling Communist Party has stepped up enforcement of its “zero tolerance” strategy, which aims to prevent the virus from entering China by finding and isolating every infected person. It suspended access to Xi’an and other cities after outbreaks were discovered.

Nationwide, China reported 63 new confirmed infections in the 24 hours to midnight Friday. This included 10 in Beijing and six in the nearby port city of Tianjin.

The official death toll in China stands at 4,636 out of 105,547 confirmed cases.

Xi’an has reported 2,053 cases since Dec. 9. None were reported on Friday.

Airline passengers wishing to leave Xi’an must present a negative test within the last 48 hours, the official Xinhua news agency reported. He said people from areas deemed to be at high risk of infection were barred from entering the airport.

Authorities said January 16 restrictions on low-risk areas of Xi’an had been lifted at least in part. People who had been confined to their homes in other areas were allowed out to buy basic necessities.

The severity of Xi’an’s lockdown has prompted complaints about food shortages. A pregnant woman suffered a miscarriage outside a hospital after being refused admission, apparently because she did not have a valid virus test.

Authorities have urged the public to stay where they are during the Lunar New Year instead of traveling to their hometowns for the most important family holiday of the year.

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