Chinese city of Xian punishes officials for allowing virus to spread from quarantine hotel

  • China
  • Sunday, 26 Dec 2021

The northern Chinese city of Xian has punished officials for mismanaging a quarantine hotel where the Covid-19 outbreak that prompted a lockdown of 13 million residents originated.

The city reported 49 new cases on Thursday, bringing the total number of Covid-19 cases to 255.

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The outbreak spread after staff at the quarantine hotel became infected while disinfecting the rooms of passengers on a flight from Pakistan, but the authorities have been unable to establish a clear chain of transmission for some later cases.

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The city imposed a lockdown on 13 million residents starting on Thursday, with one person from every household being allowed to go outside for grocery shopping once every two days.

Special arrangements have been made to allow students stranded in Xian or other cities to take postgraduate entrance exams between Saturday and Monday.

Police in the city said they had punished six people for violating epidemic control rules with penalties that range from a verbal warning to detention and criminal charges.

Wu Hao, a specialist in community epidemic prevention and control from the Capital Medical University, defended Xian’s decision to go into lockdown with fewer than 300 cases recorded, saying the number of cases was less important than a clear transmission chain.

“In epidemic control the number of new cases is a factor because large numbers will impact the city with more resources needed for control, but the most important one is whether the outbreak has a clearly identified source and whether cases are in the same transmission chain to be quickly blocked,” Wu told Beijing Daily on Friday.

“When there has been a spread of community outbreaks with multiple unknown sources, it is important to act swiftly and stabilise the tense situation first. There is also risk of spreading Covid-19 cases outside Xian as the holidays approach,” Wu said

Meanwhile, more than 2,300 staff from the city’s Commission for Discipline Inspection have been investigating how grass-roots level officials and organisations responded to the outbreak, punishing 26 in the process.

These include 10 officials who were blamed for allowing the outbreak to spread from a quarantine hotel after staff responsible for disinfecting the rooms of infected passengers on a flight from Pakistan that arrived on December 4 contracted Covid-19.

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“They did not pay enough attention or implement policies vigorously. The internal management is chaotic, all leading to staff at quarantine hotel staff being infected,” a disciplinary official said, without identifying the officials in question.

The inspectors have also found problems at testing labs and officials have now been stationed there to ensure the process is “stable and efficient”.

“Those who do not take responsibility or act fast, shift the blame or give a passive response ... [have] been investigated, exposed and punished,” an official said in a statement on the website of the Central Commission for Discipline Investigation.

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Meanwhile, Liu Guozhong, the party secretary of Shaanxi province, ordered officials to ensure the outbreak did not “spill outside the city” by strictly enforcing the lockdown rules and keeping a close watch on transport hubs and quarantine centres.

He urged officials to take the initiative and act fast to turn the situation around.

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