China's local coronavirus cases rose for a fourth day, with the majority of infections reported by Xian, a northwestern city that has put its 13 million people under lockdown.
Xian reported 175 symptomatic cases for Monday, up from the previous day's 150. No Omicron infections have been announced yet from the more than 800 confirmed cases in Xian since Dec. 9.
Case numbers in Xian are small compared with many clusters in other countries, but Chinese officials have imposed tough curbs on travel within the city and on leaving it, in line with national guidelines to immediately contain any COVID-19 outbreak.
Some residents in Xian were anxious to know when they could next stock up on daily necessities such as vegetables, as officials had barred people from going out to shop during a new round of mass testing that started on Monday.
Officials had said shopping could resume for people in less risky areas once test results came back negative, but did not say exactly when the suspension would be lifted. Prior to the restriction, each household had been allowed to send only one person out to shop for essentials every two days.
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A vaccine works by mimicking a natural infection. A vaccine not only induces immune response to protect people from any future COVID-19 infection, but also helps quickly build herd immunity to put an end to the pandemic. Herd immunity occurs when a sufficient percentage of a population becomes immune to a disease, making the spread of disease from person to person unlikely. The good news is that SARS-CoV-2 virus has been fairly stable, which increases the viability of a vaccine.
There are broadly four types of vaccine — one, a vaccine based on the whole virus (this could be either inactivated, or an attenuated [weakened] virus vaccine); two, a non-replicating viral vector vaccine that uses a benign virus as vector that carries the antigen of SARS-CoV; three, nucleic-acid vaccines that have genetic material like DNA and RNA of antigens like spike protein given to a person, helping human cells decode genetic material and produce the vaccine; and four, protein subunit vaccine wherein the recombinant proteins of SARS-COV-2 along with an adjuvant (booster) is given as a vaccine.
Vaccine development is a long, complex process. Unlike drugs that are given to people with a diseased, vaccines are given to healthy people and also vulnerable sections such as children, pregnant women and the elderly. So rigorous tests are compulsory. History says that the fastest time it took to develop a vaccine is five years, but it usually takes double or sometimes triple that time.
"It feels like a long time," said a 22-year-old resident surnamed Jin.
"The fact that I haven't yet been told when I could shop again makes me a bit anxious," Jin, who ran out of fresh greens by Tuesday and couldn't make orders online without waiting for nearly a week before delivery, told Reuters.
Since last week, Xian residents have not been allowed to leave the city without clearance from their employer or community authorities. Officials have also banned non-essential vehicles.
Zhang Boli, who advised the Chinese government in formulating early COVID-19 response and treatment strategies, told state media earlier this month that Xian may contain the outbreak by around mid-January.
Nationwide, mainland China detected 182 local symptomatic cases for Monday, according to a statement by the National Health Commission, compared with 162 a day earlier.
That was the highest daily count since the official daily bulletin started classifying asymptomatic cases separately at the end of March last year.
China has disclosed only a handful of Omicron infections, mostly among international travellers and in the south.
A national health official said earlier this month that local transmission caused by imported Omicron infection was found in the southern city of Guangzhou, without disclosing how many cases were found.An infecious disease doctor in the eastern province of Zhejiang said on Tuesday at a government-organized news briefing that Omicron cases arriving from overseas were detected in the province a week ago, without disclosing the number of infections.