An influenza outbreak has been reported in China, with rising cases forcing the Chinese city of Xi’an to consider another round of lockdowns.
Influenza has overtaken COVID-19 to become the most prevalent virus as reported by the Beijing Center for Disease Prevention and Control. In some cities, school classes had to be suspended temporarily to manage the spread of the virus.
The past three years has seen low prevalence of influenza due to the preventative measures taken for the COVID-19 pandemic. According to the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention the positivity rate for flu cases jumped up to 41% inside a week (5-11 March) from 25% the previous week. COVID-19 positivity, meanwhile, has fallen from 5.1% to 3.8%. The spike in flu cases has seen pharmacies struggling to meet the demand for flu remedies.
Xi’an, a city of 13 million people, is most famous globally for the terracotta warriors. Citizens of Xi’an are not happy with the prospect of another lockdown. They have vented their frustrations on social media with one user saying on Weibo, “Vaccinate the public rather than using such time to create a sense of panic.” Another user said that the local government was “addicted to sealing and controlling.” People are still coming to terms with the severe restrictions imposed during the COVID outbreak when people had to be confined to their homes for long durations and had to face food shortages due to panic buying.
However, people are being asked not to worry about the impending restrictions as the emergency plan will be implemented gradually (four levels of severity) based on the extent of the outbreak. Professor Tang Renwu, dean of Beijing Normal University’s School of Government has said that the “local governments should pay attention to their wording when issuing similar documents so as not to trigger social panic.”
This is not the first time a local government has had to consider lockdowns due to a flu outbreak. In 2015, the Shanghai government had planned to stop classes and work, and enforce restrictions on public gatherings, in the event of an influenza pandemic.
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