China quietly shuts down area near Beijing a week before Winter Olympics

China has retained a strict “zero-Covid” strategy involving targeted lockdowns (File)

Beijing:

Chinese officials this week locked down Beijing’s neighboring region after a handful of reported coronavirus cases, but made no public announcements about the new restrictions, with just a week until the Winter Olympics.

About 1.2 million people in the Xiong’an New Area – a new economic zone 100 kilometers southwest of China’s capital – are no longer allowed to enter or leave their residential premises, local virus prevention staff confirmed to AFP on Friday. Of.

While recent lockdowns in China have been publicly announced and widely reported by state media, Xiong’an restrictions have been introduced without notice – causing confusion among some residents of the region.

“We expect this (lockdown) to last about a week, but the exact timing is uncertain,” said virus prevention staff in Xiong County, one of the area’s three counties.

He said the restrictions went into effect on Tuesday, the same day officials in another district noted that five confirmed coronavirus infections had been discovered to date.

With the Winter Olympics starting next week, Chinese authorities have scrambled to stem the violence that has erupted in several major cities, including Beijing.

China on Friday reported 39 domestic COVID-19 cases, including a new Omicron cluster in the eastern city of Hangzhou, which is home to e-commerce giant Alibaba.

Some 22 infections had been detected in Hangzhou as of Friday, and local health officials warned of further cases after a patient had attended a gathering of more than 300 people.

Officials in Suifenhe, a city in Heilongjiang province bordering Russia, were also rushing to stamp out a mini-outbreak involving the Delta variant.

The latest string of flareups has put spring festival holiday plans in jeopardy for millions.

olympic bubble

Some users on China’s Twitter-like Weibo platform were seen asking for more information about the restrictions, while others questioned the extent of the measures.

A Weibo user this week said, “Is it needed? If the area is deemed low-risk why can’t we go home? Don’t make it one-size-fits-all.”

Another said on Thursday: “I don’t think I’ll be able to go home for the Lunar New Year.”

Meanwhile, the Winter Olympics will be held in a strict “closed-loop” bubble, isolating everyone involved in the Games from the wider Chinese population, to reduce the risk of leaking infections.

Two athletes and eight officials who arrived in China tested positive for the virus on Thursday, bringing the total number of positive cases to 89.

China, where the coronavirus first emerged, maintains a strict “zero-Covid” strategy that includes targeted lockdowns, stringent border controls and mass testing.

Its case count is low compared to the rest of the world.

A month-long lockdown on the megacity of Xi’an was lifted earlier this week after a cluster that surged to more than 2,100 cases – China’s biggest outbreak in months – was largely sealed.

But stubborn flare-ups continue, including in Beijing and the nearby port city of Tianjin.

(Except for the title, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)

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