For 12 days and counting, Xi'an's 13 million residents have been confined to their homes. The city, formerly a tourist hotspot, welcomed the new year with deserted streets, shuttered stores, sealed-off residential compounds and an empty airport. The lockdown is the strictest and largest since Wuhan, which sealed off 11 million people in early 2020. But it is also among the most chaotic, leaving residents short of food and other essential supplies and affecting access to medical services.
A groundswell of anger and frustration at the local government has ensued, underscoring the growing challenge facing China's zero-Covid policy, which relies on a playbook of mass testing, extensive quarantines and snap lockdowns to stamp out any resurgence of the virus.