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Omicron Variant Forces More Covid Lockdown, Border Restrictions in China

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The measures have kept the number of new Covid cases much lower compared to virus hotspots in other countries. (file)

Beijing:

Five million residents of a central Chinese city began home confinement on Tuesday in a new lockdown to curb the spread of the highly permeable Omicron version of the coronavirus, according to state media.

Beijing is on high alert for new outbreaks as it prepares to host the Winter Olympics next month, sticking to a “zero-Covid” strategy of targeted lockdowns, border restrictions and lengthy quarantines.

While those measures have kept the number of new cases far below those of virus hotspots in the United States and Europe, Beijing is currently battling local outbreaks in several cities.

The rapidly spreading Omicron strain presents a new challenge, with two cases in Anyang – the newly closed city in Henan province – linked to a growing infection cluster in the northern metropolis of Tianjin, some 400 kilometers (250 miles) away.

Authorities in Anyang announced a lockdown late Monday, ordering residents not to leave their homes or drive cars on the streets, state news agency Xinhua reported.

All non-essential businesses have been closed and a massive testing campaign launched “to respond to the critical epidemic control situation and vigorously prevent the spread of the Omicron virus outbreak”, Xinhua news agency reported. has been done.

State broadcaster CCTV said on Tuesday that 58 new local infections were recorded in Anyang, bringing the city’s total caseload since Saturday to 84.

It was not immediately clear whether the new cases were linked to the Omicron variant.

The city had already restricted outbound travel, which local officials said was “to ensure that the outbreak does not spread to outlying areas”.

At least three cities in Henan are battling emerging outbreaks, with the provincial capital Zhengzhou closing schools and kindergartens, and restaurants barring dine-in customers.

Last week, one million people in the city of Yuzhou were placed under stay-at-home orders.

Elsewhere, Tianjin – a major port city just 150 kilometers from Beijing – has barred people from leaving without official permission, ordered tests of all 14 million residents, and canceled trains in the capital. Have given.

Tianjin is adjacent to the Winter Olympics venues in Beijing and Hebei province and 10 new locally transmitted cases have been confirmed after mass testing across the city.

The northern city of Xi’an is in its third week of lockdown as it attempts to stamp out the 2,000-case outbreak.

And after recording a handful of cases in recent days, Shenzhen – a southern tech hub across the border from Hong Kong – has closed some housing compounds, launched a massive testing initiative and some long-distance travel. Bus stations have been closed.

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

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