Beijing, Tianjin race to contain Omicron spread ahead of Lunar New Year and Winter Olympics

Beijing, Tianjin race to contain Omicron spread ahead of Lunar New Year and Winter Olympics

A medical worker in a protective suit collects a swab from a resident for nucleic acid testing at a makeshift testing site for the coronavirus disease in Tianjin, China, on Jan 13, 2022. (Reuters photo)
A medical worker in a protective suit collects a swab from a resident for nucleic acid testing at a makeshift testing site for the coronavirus disease in Tianjin, China, on Jan 13, 2022. (Reuters photo)

HONG KONG: The northern city of Tianjin and Chinese capital Beijing are battling to contain the spread of the Omicron variant of Covid-19 and bring it under control ahead of the Lunar New Year holiday and start of the Winter Olympics.

Meanwhile, the health authorities said the southern city of Shenzhen was nearly at the end of this round of coronavirus resurgence.

Across China, 119 cases were reported as of midnight Saturday, of which 65 were locally transmitted, the National Health Commission (NHC) said on Sunday. Among these cases, 33 were in Tianjin, 29 in Henan province, one in Beijing, one in Guangdong and one in Shaanxi's provincial capital Xian.

On Saturday, Beijing reported its first case of Omicron, a woman from Haidian district who reported having a sore throat and fever in the past few days.

The woman had not left the city in the previous two weeks and had not been in contact with confirmed cases. Two people living with her tested negative but some environmental samples in her home were positive.

The local health authorities have tracked her movements over the past two weeks and alerted close contacts. People who have visited the same public places as her were told to get tested.

Chen Jingjing, a Beijing-based animation producer, said the patient had visited a cinema near her workplace. As a result, everyone in the office building was told to take a nucleic test on Sunday, otherwise they would not be allowed to enter.

"I previously developed a cold and now I'm really concerned that it may be Covid-19," she said.

Chen also said she has given up any hope of travelling home to the eastern province of Anhui, some 1,000 kilometres from the capital, for the holidays, especially with the Winter Olympics opening in a few weeks.

A series of preventive measures have been put in place for the Games, which will be held inside an isolation bubble. On Saturday, Xu Hejian, a spokesman for the Beijing municipal government, said that all departments had to ensure the safety of the capital and the Olympics.

Meanwhile, Vice-Premier Liu He warned of growing uncertainty surrounding the capital's pandemic controls during the holidays and Winter Games, and called on officials to strengthen their contingency plans.

Tianjin, a major port city to the east of the capital, is still battling to contain its outbreak but the NHC said the risk of it spreading to other cities was falling. Tianjin's most recent cases have been detected in locked down parts of the city.

The city has recorded a total of 362 local cases this month and the outbreak has since spread to the central province of Henan, where a number of Delta outbreaks had already occurred.

Meanwhile, the NHC said Shenzhen had preliminarily put an outbreak under control.

The outbreak in the southern city started on December 7, when the Delta variant was detected in a married couple during routine screening, prompting rounds of citywide nucleic testing and restrictions being imposed on some residential compounds and commercial areas.

On Saturday, Shenzhen reported zero new local cases, raising hopes that the outbreak will be over by Lunar New Year on Feb 1.

The nearby cities of Zhuhai and Zhongshan are continuing mass screening and have imposed travel restrictions since Omicron was detected in both cities last month. The authorities in Macau have also tightened their border controls in response.

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