While the memories of strict Covid-19 lockdown continue to haunt people, Chinese city of Xi’an announced that it will lock down areas and shut schools, if an outbreak poses a “serious threat”, according to an emergency response plan published on Wednesday.
The remarks of Chinese officials, stating that they may turn to lockdowns “when necessary” to combat future flu outbreaks, have sparked an outrage among residents. A large section of internet users have called the plan “excessive”, especially after criticism of China’s Covid controls. Flu cases have surged across China just as its latest Covid wave is waning.
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Shortage of medication
The country is also witnessing shortage of antiviral medication at pharmacies due to spike in flu cases. While there is no indication of an imminent lockdown in Xi’an, some people have aired apprehensions that its plan could see a return to the zero-Covid approach, which the country abruptly abandoned in December.
Xi’an experienced some of the country’s strictest lockdowns during the pandemic. Locals were banned from leaving their homes – even to buy food and other basic supplies – for a month in December 2021.
An individual wrote on Chinese social media platform Weibo that influenza outbreaks had always been common before Covid, but “life went on as per normal” when they hit. Another remarked that some local governments were “addicted to sealing and controlling”.
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Xi’an’s plan segments its response into four levels, according to severity of the situation. Lockdowns may be called for when community spread reaches an acute level.
It is not the only Chinese city that has such emergency plans. In 2015, for instance, the Shanghai government said it may stop classes and work, as well as set restrictions on gatherings, in the event of a serious influenza pandemic.
“To local residents who were traumatised by the lockdown measures not long ago, the return to the same draconian method in coping with flu outbreaks is by no means justified,” said Huang Yanzhong, a senior fellow for global health at the Council on Foreign Relations.