Beijing is to require travelers to get a COVID-19 test within 72 hours of arrival in the Chinese capital, state media announced yesterday, a day after the city reported its first case of the SARS-CoV-2 Omicron variant and as it readies to host the Winter Olympics next month.
The city on Saturday reported the first local infection of the highly transmissible Omicron variant, involving a person who had visited multiple malls and restaurants in the previous 14 days. The person had not left the city since the start of this year.
The new rule, effective from Saturday to the end of March, is aimed to help with early detection of Omicron, which is surging globally, and the control of epidemic risks, Beijing Daily, a government newspaper, said on social media.
The capital already requires inbound travelers to take a COVID-19 test within 48 hours of departure for the city and have a “green” code on the city’s health tracking app.
The city and neighboring Hebei Province is to host the Olympics, which start on Feb. 4, inside a “closed loop” separating athletes and other Games personnel from the public.
In Tianjin, a neighboring city that is battling an outbreak involving the Omicron variant, officials found 59 COVID-19 cases in its third round of mass testing starting on Saturday, He Peng, a local government spokesman, told a news conference yesterday.
So far, local cases of the Omicron variant have been detected in at least five provinces and municipalities, prompting cities to impose curbs to stop its spread.
China has not said how many Omicron cases it has detected.
“It is too soon to conclude that Omicron will swamp China’s efforts to suppress COVID,” Capital Economics chief Asia economist Mark Williams said in a note on Friday. “But it is clear that the emergence of more transmissible variants is requiring more frequent interventions... And the economic toll from this vigilance is mounting.”
About 13,000 people have been tested for COVID-19 in the Haidian district where the Beijing case was discovered, but none of the results came back positive, Beijing Daily cited official data as saying yesterday.
However, some religious sites in the city were being closed to visitors as a precautionary measure. Lama Temple, a Tibetan Buddhist monastery in central Beijing, said it was closing down for an unspecified period due to COVID-19 epidemic and control measures.
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