Mon. Jan 17th, 2022

The detection of the Omicron tribe in Beijing comes as cities across the country step up viral vigilance ahead of the Winter Olympics.

The first locally transmitted Omicron case has been detected in the Chinese capital, Beijing, officials said, weeks before it will host the Winter Olympics.

State television reported Saturday that the new COVID infection has been identified as the Omicron strain.

Laboratory tests found “mutations specific to the Omicron variant” in the person, Pang Xinghuo, an official with the city’s disease control authority, told a news conference.

The announcement comes a day after the southern city of Zhuhai imposed travel restrictions on residents as a mass test drive uncovered seven infections.

Millions of people across the country have been ordered to stay at home in recent weeks, with numerous domestic flights canceled and factories closed as the country tries to control a spate of small coronavirus outbreaks, including several of the Omicron variant, before the olympic games, which begins on February 4th.

One locally transferred Omicron case has been discovered in the capital’s Haidian district, home to many technology companies’ headquarters, city official Pang told a news conference, a rare violation of Beijing’s strictly guarded COVID-19 defense.

Authorities are testing the other residents of the patient’s residential complex and office building, and have restricted access to 17 sites linked to the infected person, Pang said.

Beijing has long banned people from parts of the country who reported cases, while all arrivals are required to provide recent COVID-19 test reports.

Residents have also been urged in recent weeks not to leave the city for the upcoming spring festival holiday.

On Friday, the coastal city of Zhuhai, which borders the Macau gambling center, said Omicron had been detected in one lightly ill and six asymptomatic patients.

Zhuhai officials have asked residents to avoid leaving the city “unless necessary”, with those leaving within the previous 24 hours showing negative COVID test results.

The city launched mass testing for its 2.4 million people on Friday after a COVID case was detected earlier this week in neighboring Zhongshan.

Businesses including beauty salons, card rooms, gyms and cinemas were ordered to close on Thursday, with officials announcing the suspension of public bus routes in parts of the city.

China has kept COVID-19 cases relatively low throughout the pandemic with its zero-tolerance strategy to recommend immediate mass testing and strict closures when infections are detected.

Tougher restrictions have been imposed on China’s smaller cities where millions of people have been ordered to stay home and be tested, while economic hubs such as Shanghai and Beijing have only closed and tested specific neighborhoods in more targeted efforts.

But the fast-spreading Omicron variant has tested that strategy in recent weeks, appearing in the port city of Tianjin near Beijing before spreading to the central city of Anyang.

National Health Commission spokeswoman Mi Feng told reporters on Saturday that the country faced a “dual challenge” from the Delta and Omicron strains of the virus.

He warned that regions that have not yet seen outbreaks should “relax” their prevention measures and “strengthen risk auditing”.

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