A second Chinese city has been ordered into lockdown as the country's Covid intolerant policy continues to face challenges.
More than 1.1 million residents in the small city of Yuzhou, 700km southwest of Beijing, have been ordered to remain indoors and not to leave town, the local Communist Party said in a statement late on Monday (local time).
It comes after more than 13 million people in the northwestern city of Xi'an have been under strict lockdown conditions for nearly two weeks as the government desperately tries to to stamp out the mutating coronavirus ahead of the Winter Olympics in Beijing next month.
Residents in Xi'an have reported facing food shortages and hunger as they rely on government deliveries.
The curbs in the city of Yuzhou, in the central province of Henan, are similar, Reuters reported.
Vehicles were banned from Yuzhou's roads unless they have clearance from virus control authorities and authorities ordered a halt to activity in supermarkets apart from the supply of daily necessities.
"So far, the source of the virus is unknown, the number of cases is unclear... the virus control and prevention situation in our city is very severe," authorities in Xuchang city, which has jurisdiction over Yuzhou, said in a statement on Tuesday.
"To curb and quash the epidemic within the shortest amount of time is a high-priority political task facing all officials and people in the city."
The lockdown was triggered by just three asymptomatic cases, AFP later reported. Like China's others cases, they have not been reported by the government as the highly contagious Omicron variant.
While information is hard to trust, there are signs the harsh near two-week crackdown in Xi'an is yielding the desired results with dwindling case numbers.
Local authorities said 95 cases were detected on Monday, down from previous days. The city has registered more than 1,700 since December 9.
Authorities continue to call for "strict and proper" implementation of the Covid rules.
"We'd rather widen our identification of groups at risk than to overlook a single person," Liu Guozhong, head of the Communist Party in Shaanxi province of which Xi'an is the capital, said.
No one should be overlooked during testing in key Xi'an areas and "household doors" should be closely watched in rural parts of the city to make sure people are complying with travel curbs, Liu was quoted as saying in an article published by the Xi'an government.
'Are we the sacrifice?': Angst among locked down residents
But angst among locals has bubbled up on social media with reports of residents bartering among food shortages.
"Xi'an's brutal lockdown is repeating many sad stories in Wuhan nearly two years ago," New York Times journalist Li Yuan wrote on Twitter on Monday.
However, this time there are few voices able to speak out, she lamented.
"They are either silenced, detained, disappeared or dying in jail," she said, referring to whistleblowers from Wuhan.
Investigative journalist Jiang Xue, who is currently locked down in Xi'an, has published a diary of the experience.
"There is no longer a busy evening in this city, and the deathly silence feels absurd and scary," she wrote in a detailed account of the lockdown.
According to the Wall Street Journal's deputy China bureau chief, Josh Chin, there are moments of dissent in the text.
"'We must be willing to make any sacrifice.' This line is true enough, but each average person needs to think, are we the 'we' here, or are we the 'sacrifice'?" she wrote.
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