What is the “social surface clearance” after the 12-day closure of Xi’an?

“Xi’an’s wonderful plan to secure the world… But what do you mean by ‘clearing the social side’?” The city of Xi’an, China, which has been closed for 13 million people due to an outbreak of community infection of unknown origin, has entered its 12th day of closure as of January 3, and the number of confirmed cases in the city has dropped to less than 100 per day. Although the situation in Xi’an is the “most violent spread” in China since the closure of Wuhan, the official figures of hospitalizations, serious illnesses, and deaths are relatively minor, and there has been no reported need for strained medical capacity or expansion of hospitals in the square cabin. On the contrary, it was the strict closure of the city and the confusion of the erroneous epidemic prevention orders that caused more social panic and discontent.

On the morning of January 3, the Chinese government also announced that the 24-hour number of new cases in Xi’an had “dropped to 90” on January 2, marking the first time since December 25, 2021 that the epidemic in Xi’an had “dropped back into double digits. But such upbeat news has triggered extremely divergent responses from local citizens: while some are looking forward to Xi’an’s imminent unsealing, others are lambasting the Xi’an government for its mischievous epidemic preparedness, which is only meant to serve as an errand – especially after the central government’s strict order that “Xi’an must reach ‘zero social surface’ by January 4. ‘zero social surface’ by January 4.”

But what does “zero social surface” mean? According to the Chinese central government and the official media, “social clearance” is not “epidemic clearance,” but rather the pursuit of negative PCRs in community screening – but in Xi’an’s epidemic prevention logic But in Xi’an’s epidemic prevention logic, all “infected communities” are to be forcibly removed, and all residents of neighborhoods with confirmed epidemics are to be “taken out of the city for centralized quarantine”.

“… In this state, all people at risk – regardless of whether anyone in the household is diagnosed or not – will be pulled away en masse and sent to an ‘out-of-town control area’; in other words, all In other words, all the people at risk in Xi’an will be taken to the control area and quarantined, so that no more positive screenings will occur in the remaining communities, thus achieving a ‘social clean-up’ in Xi’an.”

However, this social clean-up measure also poses a significant risk of cross-contamination of quarantined persons, especially in the context of the local government’s “political epidemic prevention”, which has led to a great deal of public concern about the “new ‘unspecified noun’ epidemic prevention”. The government’s “political epidemic prevention”, especially in the local government’s absurd and frequent changes, has also triggered a great deal of anger and mistrust among the public about the “new ‘unspecified’ epidemic prevention”.

Photo/Xinhua News Agency

The epidemic in Xi’an started with the outbreak of the epidemic in the country on December 9 last year, and as of January 3, a total of 1,663 cases have been confirmed. Does this mean an “epidemic inflection point” for the effectiveness of prevention and control? With the ongoing fever in Xi’an following the city closure and the outbreak already spilling over to other provinces and regions, Chinese disease control authorities seem to have no more effective solutions than repeatedly restarting mass screening and continuing the strict lockdown, and are still at a loss as to the chain of transmission in Xi’an.

Just in time for the New Year’s Day holiday in 2022, Xi’an is on its 10th day of closure to welcome the new year. After the previous sudden escalation of the “city-wide foot ban”, Xi’an strictly controlled the “no one out of the house, no car on the road” austerity policy, in addition to the necessary reasons to maintain living needs, and general livelihood supplies were taken over by delivery services of e-commerce platforms and local government. The general supply of people’s livelihood has been taken over by the delivery service of e-commerce platform and the local government’s material deployment.

In addition, 10 districts and counties in Xi’an, including Chang’an District and Baqiao District, have also been included in the re-examination area. Although the reason for repeated testing by Xi’an’s epidemic prevention authorities is to “ensure that no one is left out of the screening process,” the repetition and failure to clarify the chain of transmission has drawn criticism from the local public that “the officials are in disarray and testing for the sake of testing.

In this wave of outbreak in Xi’an, starting with the emergence of local cases in Xi’an on December 9, the local government has actually not made any official statements or definite conclusions about the transmission chain, the source of infection and the possible spillover of the epidemic so far. At the same time, a military order was issued requiring Xi’an to complete “100 percent prevention and control in place and zero social surface” by Jan. 4.

In other words, as long as no more confirmed cases are detected through nucleic acid testing in communities that are not quarantined areas, Xi’an will be considered to have achieved the goal of “zero social outbreaks”. In other words, as long as no more confirmed cases are screened in communities that are not quarantine areas, Xi’an will have reached “social zero”.

While there is a logic to this goal of “zero social outbreaks,” it is how and by what means this goal will be achieved that is the key issue in Xi’an that is being questioned. On Chinese social networks such as Weibo and WeChat platforms, there have been recent signs of “deliberate quarantine” by epidemic prevention officials, such as a local community where households tested negative, but because someone in the community was diagnosed, it was changed to “quarantine all residents of the community” and people were moved to another community. For example, in one case, the test result of a community household was negative, but because someone in the community was diagnosed, it was changed to “quarantine all the residents of the community”, and the people were moved to another place to be quarantined, or moved directly to a place outside Xi’an city. “One person is positive for the whole community to be pulled away for isolation, this method is neither scientific nor humane.”

Photo / Xinhua News Agency

Photo shows a large number of people wearing masks to worship on New Year’s Day at the Yonghegong Lama Temple in Beijing, Jan. 1, 2022. Photo/European News Agency

A similar approach took place at the photoelectric park in Xi’an’s high-tech district, where a cluster of infections was previously found, and residents who tested negative were forcibly quarantined in place. The sweeping approach was indeed suspicious, and after the Shaanxi provincial government issued a military order to achieve a zero social level, Chinese community opinion speculated that the reason for “pulling the whole district away from one positive person” was to prevent the number of confirmed cases in the community from rising, and to allow the population to enter the quarantine area (or outside of Xi’an) directly, so that the social level could be met. The conditions for clearing the surface: +0 confirmed PCR tests in the community, +0 confirmed cases in the non-quarantine area.

However, this has caused a lot of discontent among the Xi’an public, accusing the epidemic prevention authorities of putting the cart before the horse, and of “cooking the books”.

I don’t know what they were thinking. If a building is found to be infected, why don’t you seal the building on the spot, instead of pulling the whole building away to quarantine it? Do you want to show how hard you are working? It is clear that the Xi’an government said to start a new round of testing, but in fact only checked some of the neighborhoods, which is called the number of people diagnosed fell? …. Why are you in such a hurry to clear it? Is it really possible to do zero? The Xi’an government has rotted the good people this epidemic, so why not get down to business and control the epidemic?

Related keywords became hot searches on Weibo on Jan. 3, such as “#4 to clear”, “#xi’an4 to clear” and “#socialface to clear” referring to Xi’an is scheduled to reach zero social surface on January 4.

However, while public opinion questioned Xi’an for playing the numbers game to achieve “success in epidemic prevention on the books”, Shaanxi Province and Xi’an City were on the one hand pushing the warmth of human feelings under the epidemic prevention and closure, with the keywords “touched by these moments of fighting the epidemic in Xi’an” appearing in the propaganda. They promoted how the local people were persevering through difficulties, how warm and timely the distribution of supplies was, and the image of people in Shangluo, Shaanxi Province “pulling a mule to deliver supplies to the epidemic area” was widely circulated, but the various official moments of moving seemed not to have much effect on the sealing of Xi’an this time.

“More than moving, more want to see efficient, orderly, moving useful I can move every day at home.”

“Long wave don’t blindly moved! The country’s cities of all sizes have so much experience in sealing the city, why is Xi’an so chaotic this time?

Why do you want the people to save themselves? Should not reflect on it?”

“Moved by these anti-epidemic moments in Xi’an? I am touched by your mother!”

The dissatisfaction with the term “socially cleared” is also linked to “newly coined terms” that have emerged since China’s epidemic preparedness, such as the “temporal accompaniment” that emerged in Fujian earlier, meaning Although they are not in close contact with the confirmed cases in reality, they may become “temporal companions” of the confirmed cases because of the proximity of mobile communication signal detection, or their cell phone signals are detected in a similar area, which is a kind of temporal companion and becomes the target of official messages and alerts. In Jiangxi, for example, pets were killed in quarantine at home, but it was called “harmless disposal” – such terminology was used indiscriminately, which made public discontent accumulate deeper and deeper.

A team of locomotives drafted by the government to deliver government-issued supplies in Xi’an. Photo/Xinhua News Agency

The number of confirmed cases in Xi’an has been rapidly declining for eight consecutive days since the city was closed, and the number of confirmed cases in a single day announced on Jan. 3 was the first time in recent memory that the number dropped to 90. With the chain of transmission, the source of infection and other key issues not clearly under control, there is no guarantee that even if the social side of the epidemic reaches zero on the 4th, it will not turn around and re-emerge.

The uncertainty of the epidemic situation has people in Xi’an worried: “Oh my God, I want to have a good New Year, I don’t want to be locked up at home again, right?”

On the other hand, Xi’an has not yet reported a major collapse of medical capacity or an emergency expansion of the Fangcai Hospital, as happened in Wuhan in the past, but since the eve of the city closure, there have been cases of hospitals selectively treating patients, especially those who are listed in high-risk areas of the epidemic, and being kicked around by hospitals and refusing to treat them, which have been circulating on social networks. A resident of Xi’an posted a plea for help on the “Little Red Book” platform with the title “Xi’an Help! He said that his father had a heart attack, but he was unable to go out because someone in his community had been diagnosed, and his call to the hospital was rejected on the grounds of “medium to high risk area”. I don’t have a father.”

While the epidemic in China is a national concern in Xi’an, the writer Fang Fang, who wrote “Fang Fang’s Diary” during the closure of Wuhan in the past, questioning the closure policy and once becoming a target of public opinion, released a “2021 year-end testimonial” on January 2, with the meaningful text once again becoming a key hot search for the blog –

The year before last today, I learned that there was a new SARS virus infecting Wuhan, but immediately learned that ‘people do not pass on, it can be prevented and controlled’. A disaster was completely unanticipated to be coming. Today this year, the catastrophe is still not over. Where it will end is unpredictable.

Life has never been so full of uncertainty as it is now. This uncertainty is the result of our own numbness.

Tomorrow is a new year.

May the mediocre and the resourceful continue to rejoice.

May the honest and truthful continue to be honest.

May the foolish and sycophantic continue to kneel.

May the vile and lowly continue to be evil.

May everyone in the world live well.