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Xi’an Outbreak ‘Under Control’ as Hong Kong Recalls Cruise Ship

Other urban hubs where clusters have been detected face restrictions while Hong Kong authorities recall a giant cruise ship back to port

Passengers and crew are seen on the "Spectrum of the Seas" cruise ship on Wednesday after it was ordered to return to the city. Photo: AFP


Covid-19 cases in the locked-down Chinese city of Xi’an fell to their lowest in weeks on Wednesday, as officials said an outbreak there had been largely “brought under control” after a two-week stay-at-home order that affected millions of residents.

But other urban hubs where clusters have been detected face restrictions including a new partial lockdown in the city of Zhengzhou.

China has stuck to a rigid approach of stamping out Covid-19 cases when they appear with tight border restrictions and targeted lockdowns since the virus first emerged in the country in late 2019.

But the strategy has come under pressure with a series of recent local outbreaks in different parts of the country, and with less than a month to go until the start of the Beijing Winter Olympics.

Although the reported cases in China are very low compared with elsewhere in the world, infections in recent weeks have reached a high not seen in the country since March 2020.

They showed signs of easing on Wednesday with 91 cases reported – including 35 more in Xi’an, the historic city’s lowest tally since mid-December.


Partial Lockdown in Zhengzhou

Four cases were recorded in neighbouring Henan province Wednesday, where authorities have imposed a partial lockdown on the city of Zhengzhou which has recorded two cases and nine asymptomatic infections in recent days.

State media said some 500 close contacts had been traced of the two cases, linked through mahjong rooms and family gatherings.

In Hong Kong, more than 2,500 cruise ship passengers were ordered on Wednesday to cut short their trip and return to Hong Kong for compulsory testing.

Nine of the passengers were identified as close contacts of a preliminary-positive case linked to a suspected new Omicron cluster.

On January 2, Spectrum of the Seas had embarked on a “cruise to nowhere” but Royal Caribbean said it received a notification from Hong Kong’s Department of Health that it had to return to the Kai Tak Cruise Terminal.

“For the sake of prudence, the Department of Health also requires all crews on this voyage to undergo a second mandatory inspection on January 7,” the cruise line said.

Cruises by Spectrum of the Seas will be temporarily suspended until then. Passengers who have booked will receive a full refund.


  • George Russell, with AFP



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George Russell

George Russell is a freelance writer and editor based in Hong Kong who has lived in Asia since 1996. His work has been published in the Financial Times, The Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg, New York Post, Variety, Forbes and the South China Morning Post.


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