Omicron: China’s vaccine may not be effective says expert
Anyang has ordered its 5.5 million residents to remain at home unless going out for a Covid test or essential jobs. China’s Omicron surge comes just weeks before the Lunar New Year, a peak travel period for millions, and cities across China are telling people to stay put, particularly as Beijing prepares to host the Winter Olympics at the start of next month.
Cities are imposing tougher restrictions to try to control new outbreaks of COVID-19, with the city of Tianjin, population 14 million, also battling Omicron.
The country has also ordered the cancellation of more than two dozen scheduled flights from the United States after numerous passengers tested positive for COVID-19 when they arrived in China.
The outbreak in Tianjin has been linked to cases in Anyang, located in the central Chinese province of Henan, which has recorded 84 confirmed infections since Saturday.
A medical worker takes a swab sample from a resident for nucleic acid test in Anyang
A staff member wearing personal protective equipment in Tianjin
Zhang Boli, a government medical adviser, told state broadcaster CCTV on Tuesday Omicron “can’t be taken lightly” even if the symptoms among Omicron infections in Tianjin appeared to be not as severe as previous variants.
Meanwhile Zhang Ying, an official with Tianjin’s disease control centre, speaking in an interview aired on state television late on Monday, said: “Facing Omicron directly, we found the speed of transmission was really quite fast.
“Whether it is in terms of virus origin tracing or epidemiological investigations, the Omicron variant has brought along unprecedentedly massive challenges and difficulties.”
A medical worker administers a nucleic acid test at a COVID-19
A Tianjin official told a press briefing on Tuesday 49 domestically transmitted cases with confirmed symptoms have been detected during the latest outbreak.
Like Anyang, Tianjin, roughly 62 miles (100km) from Beijing, is implementing tough controls to stop the coronavirus from spreading, especially to neighbouring Beijing.
The city, which has tightened controls on people leaving the city, on Tuesday closed indoor venues such as gyms and bars in one district with over 800,000 people.
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Students and teachers queue up to receive COVID-19 nucleic acid tests at Tianjin University
People queue to get a PCR test in Beijing
Tianjin confirmed its first two locally transmitted cases of Omicron at the weekend, and Zhang said 20 infected people were discovered in the first 24 hours.
The city has imposed travel restrictions and launched a mass testing programme to help prevent the variant from spreading.
China confirmed 110 local symptomatic cases for January 10, up from 97 a day earlier, with 87 local cases in highly populated Henan province, according to a statement by the National Health Commission.
Anyang and Tianjin are in the east of China
Henan’s provincial capital of Zhengzhou, fighting an outbreak driven by the Delta variant, has shut non-essential public facilities like beauty salons, banned dining in restaurants, and stopped taxis and ride-hailing platforms from operating in quarantined areas, local officials said on Tuesday.
A separate imported Omicron infection was reported on Monday in the city of Wuxi in Jiangsu province, about 75 miles (120km) from Shanghai on China’s eastern coast. The patient had travelled from Australia to Shanghai on January 5 before transferring to Wuxi.
With the Lunar New Year approaching, other regions are also leaving nothing to chance.
Testing in Anyang
Authorities in the southern city of Shenzhen, which has reported a handful of local cases of Delta since January 7, closed a subway station on Tuesday and urged residents not to buy goods from high-risk countries.
The southeastern island province of Hainan, a popular tourist spot, also announced that visitors would have to present a negative COVID-19 test before they could enter.
There were no new deaths for January 10, leaving the death toll at 4,636. As of January 10, mainland China had 103,968 confirmed cases with symptoms, including both local ones and those arriving from overseas.