China on Monday reported more cases of the highly transmissible Omicron coronavirus variant, weeks ahead of the Beijing Winter Olympics, with authorities on high alert as flare-ups in major cities.
The emergence of the fast-spreading version is yet another test of China’s zero COVID strategy, which officials are already battling with multiple outbreaks – including in Xi’an, where the city of 13 million residents are under lockdown. Was in his third week.
Fears grew about a cluster of infections in the northern city of Tianjin, linked to two omicron cases that were reported on Monday in the city of Anyang, some 400 kilometers (250 miles) away.
“The general public should not leave Tianjin unless it is necessary to do so,” city officials said in a statement on Sunday.
It added that those who needed to be quarantined would have to seek official permission and test negative for the virus within 48 hours of their departure.
Schools and university campuses have been closed, and trains from Tianjin to Beijing have been cancelled.
Road checkpoints have been made for vehicles entering the capital.
Tianjin, just 150 kilometers from Beijing, has already ordered testing of all 14 million residents.
Another 21 cases were reported in the city on Monday, although the strain of the virus was not confirmed.
Footage from state broadcaster CCTV showed masked men in white hazmat suits queuing for virus tests from medical workers in Tianjin’s Nankai district on Sunday.
Gu Qing, director of the Tianjin Municipal Health Commission, told reporters over the weekend that the new cases are “mainly students and their parents who attend the same nursery and school.”
The world’s most populous country – where the coronavirus was first detected in late 2019 – has slowed the spread of the virus through its zero COVID strategy, which includes targeted lockdowns, border restrictions and lengthy quarantines.
While China’s total reported cases are much lower than other virus hotspots such as the United States and Europe, there is widespread concern about Omicron’s impact.
Authorities in the city of Anyang in central Henan province also announced over the weekend testing of all residents – more than five million people.
The city reported two Omicron cases linked to the Tianjin cluster on Monday.
Henan reported 60 new cases on Monday, but did not give figures based on numbers. The provincial capital, Zhengzhou, has closed schools and kindergartens, and barred restaurants from accepting dine-in customers.
Before the latest cluster, China had reported only a handful of omicron cases, all linked to imported infections.
Officials are particularly wary of major outbreaks ahead of the Winter Olympics, which Beijing will host from February 4-20.
The global event will coincide with the busy Lunar New Year holidays, on which millions of people travel across the country.
(This story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)