The northern Chinese city of Tianjin yesterday advised its nearly 14 million people to stay home while it conducted mass COVID-19 testing after a spate of cases, including two caused by the Omicron variant of SARS-CoV-2, state media reported.
Tianjin emerged as a new area of concern after more than 20 COVID-19 cases were reported there in the past few days, most of them imported from abroad, the Chinese National Health Commission said.
They include at least two cases of the Omicron variant, as well as 15 infections among elementary and middle-school students, state media reports said.
The city near the capital, Beijing, launched its mass testing early yesterday, advising residents to stay at or near home to be available for the community-level nucleic-acid screening.
However, no larger lockdown order was reported.
Chinese authorities have already been struggling with a larger outbreak centered on the northwestern city of Xian that has raised questions about the country’s zero-tolerance policy of strict lockdowns and immediate mass testing to curb outbreaks.
China, where the coronavirus was first detected in 2019, has thus far reported only a handful of Omicron cases.
Tianjin residents have been told that until they obtain a negative test result, they would not receive a “green” code on the smartphone COVID-19-tracing apps that nearly all people in China are required to present when using public transport and in other situations.
Tianjin is a major port city about 150km southeast of Beijing.
Xian was locked down last month, forcing its 13 million residents indoors. New case numbers there have begun to slow.
Officials have faced complaints from Xian residents over chaotic handling of the lockdown, including poor access to food and daily essentials, and cases such as a miscarriage suffered by an eight-month pregnant woman who was refused entry to a hospital without a COVID-19 test.
China is strictly adhering to the zero-tolerance approach as outbreaks continue to emerge in the run-up to next month’s Beijing Winter Olympics.
Its official tally since the start of the pandemic is 103,619 cases, while it has recorded 4,636 deaths.
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