Health

As cities tighten restrictions, more Omicron cases are detected in China

The emergence of the fast-spreading variant is yet another test of China’s zero-Covid strategy, which has already seen authorities battle several outbreaks, including one in Xi’an, where 13 million people were on lockdown for the third week.

During a mass testing in Tianjin, north China, a volunteer wearing a face mask to protect against the coronavirus uses a loud speaker to give advice to masked residents as they line up for the coronavirus test.

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(AP)

More cases of the highly transmissible Omicron coronavirus variant were reported in China on Monday, putting authorities on high alert for flare-ups in major cities just weeks before the Beijing Winter Olympics.

The emergence of the fast-spreading variant is yet another test of China’s zero-Covid strategy, which has already seen authorities battle several outbreaks, including one in Xi’an, where 13 million people were on lockdown for the third week.

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detected in China
detected in China

Concerns grew over a cluster of infections in Tianjin, which were linked to two Omicron cases reported on Monday in Anyang, about 400 kilometres (250 miles) away.

“The general public should not leave Tianjin unless it is absolutely necessary,” city officials stated on Sunday.

It added that those who need to leave must get official permission and test negative for the virus within 48 hours of leaving.

Schools and university campuses have been shut down, and trains from Tianjin to Beijing have been cancelled.

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Vehicles entering the capital will pass through checkpoints.

Tianjin, which is only 150 kilometres from Beijing, has already ordered that all 14 million residents be tested.

On Monday, another 21 cases were reported in the city, though the virus strain was not confirmed.

On Sunday, masked people in Tianjin’s Nankai district queued for virus tests from medical workers in white hazmat suits, according to footage from state broadcaster CCTV.

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The new cases, according to Gu Qing, director of the Tianjin Municipal Health Commission, are “mainly students and their parents who go to the same nursery and school.”

The outbreak in Henan

The world’s most populous country, where the coronavirus was first discovered in late 2019, used a zero Covid strategy that included targeted lockdowns, border restrictions, and lengthy quarantines to slow the virus’s spread to a trickle.

Despite the fact that China’s total reported cases are far lower than in other virus hotspots such as the United States and Europe, Omicron is causing widespread concern.

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Over the weekend, authorities in the city of Anyang, in central Henan province, announced that all residents, totaling more than five million people, would be tested.

Two Omicron cases linked to the Tianjin cluster were reported in the city on Monday.

Henan reported 60 new cases on Monday, but did not specify which variants were involved. Zhengzhou, the provincial capital, has shut down schools and kindergartens, as well as restaurants that accept dine-in customers.

Prior to this latest outbreak, China had only reported a few Omicron cases, all of which were linked to imported infections.

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Authorities are especially concerned about major outbreaks in the run-up to the Winter Olympics, which will be held in Beijing from February 4 to February 20.

The international event will take place during the busy Lunar New Year holidays, when millions of people will be travelling across the country.

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