Covid-19 cases in Xian, the Chinese city at the centre of the country’s worst outbreak since the early months of the pandemic, continued their downward trend amid ongoing discontent from residents about the cost of the strict containment measures.
As its 13 million residents entered their 15th day of lockdown on Thursday, posts on social media complained about food shortages and other problems as well as expressing anger about urgent cases being denied access to hospitals.
Liu Shunzhi, the director of the city’s health commission, apologised after a woman who was eight months pregnant lost her baby after a hospital refused to admit her because her Covid-19 test result had expired and left her waiting outside for around two hours.
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“On behalf of the city health commission, I deeply apologise to this patient,” Liu told a press conference where he bowed in contrition.
“I deeply apologise for not setting up a smooth avenue for special groups to seek medical attention and for failing in my responsibilities.”
He said the commission would start “immediate rectification” and strengthen the supervision of hospitals designated for Covid-19 patients but did not provide further details.
Several hospital staff members were fired and the manager suspended, while Liu was issued a warning by the local Communist Party disciplinary commission.
Another woman has also reported losing her baby after being turned away from hospital. Meanwhile on Wednesday, a Weibo user wrote that her father had died of a heart attack after repeated efforts to seek hospital treatment were rebuffed. He was finally admitted eight hours after he started suffering chest pains.
Many hospitals stopped admitting patients, especially those from at-risk areas, after the start of the outbreak.
Xian reported 63 symptomatic cases for Wednesday, all but one found from testing people in lockdown or quarantine. The remaining case was identified in a routine test of at-risk groups.
Elsewhere, Xian’s airport suspended international flights until further notice. Domestic flights had been cancelled on December 23 when the city entered full lockdown.
The city reported at least 150 symptomatic cases in the community every day in the last week of 2021, but cases have been falling since the start of the new year.
“While there could be more cases, we basically have the risk of a large, widespread rebound under control,” Li Qun, director of the public health emergency centre at the Chinese Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, told state-run news agency Xinhua on Thursday.
He urged patience as health workers try to bring the outbreak under control.
The outbreak has been traced to a case brought from abroad on December 4 and infections have since been reported in 10 of the city’s 11 districts – some with no clear chain of transmission.
Li said Xian’s high population density and its role as a transport hub had made controlling infections more difficult.
But just as Covid-19 cases began to dwindle in Xian, another major outbreak might be emerging to its south in Henan province.
The number of local symptomatic cases in the province rose to 64 on Wednesday after reporting single-digit case counts since New Year’s Day, according to National Health Commission data.
Nearly half of the cases had already been identified as asymptomatic cases and were added to the tally after they developed symptoms, local health authorities said.
Cases were found in six Henan cities and counties. Xuchang, home to more than 4 million people, has reported 50 cases and imposed additional checks on rail passengers leaving the province.
The local government said more than 2,500 people have been quarantined and about 161,000 residents have been ordered to isolate at home.
It will arrange for trucks to spray disinfectants on major roads and near hospitals, schools and malls in the early morning of Friday.
Meanwhile, the provincial capital, Zhengzhou, identified six positive cases after testing nearly a million people from an at-risk group.
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