Several Chinese cities yesterday went on high COVID-19 alert as the Lunar New Year holiday travel season began, requiring travelers to report their trips days before their arrival, as the Omicron variant of SARS-CoV-2 reached more areas, including Beijing.
Authorities have warned the highly contagious Omicron variant adds to the increased risk of COVID-19 transmission as hundreds of millions of people travel around China ahead of Lunar New Year on Feb. 1.
Cities such as Luoyang and Jieyang on Sunday said that travelers would need to report their trips to communities, employers or hotels three days ahead of arrival.
The southwestern city of Yulin on Saturday said that those who want to enter should fill in an online form, including their health credentials and details of their trip, one day in advance.
Over the weekend, the capital Beijing and the southern technology hub Shenzhen each detected one domestically transmitted case of the Omicron variant.
The possibility that the person in Beijing was infected through imported goods could not be ruled out, Beijing Center for Disease Control and Prevention Deputy Director Pang Xinghuo (龐星火) said yesterday.
Beijing Municipal Health Commission Vice Director Li Ang (李昂) said that a local hospital had admitted nine people infected with the Omicron variant, with six still being treated.
He did not say when the people were admitted or why they had not been disclosed earlier.
The city of Meizhou, Guangdong Province, reported one Omicron infection linked to an outbreak in Zhuhai, state television said yesterday.
So far, at least five provinces and municipalities have reported domestic Omicron infections, while 14 provincial areas have found the variant among travelers arriving from overseas.
China is yet to show any solid sign of shifting its guideline of quickly containing any local infections, despite a high vaccination rate of 86.6 percent.
The strategy has taken on extra urgency in the buildup to the Winter Olympics, to be staged in Beijing and neighboring Hebei Province starting on Feb. 4.
Many local governments have already advised residents not to take unnecessary trips during the holiday, while dozens of international and domestic flights have been suspended.
China’s aviation regulator yesterday said that it would suspend two flights from the US over COVID-19 cases, bringing the total number of canceled flights from the nation so far this year to 76.
China reported 163 locally transmitted infections with confirmed symptoms on Sunday, official data showed yesterday, up from 65 a day earlier.
Sunday’s increase in infections was mainly driven by more cases in the cities of Tianjin and Anyang, where the Omicron variant has been found in local clusters.
Tianjin and Anyang have reported slightly more than 600 local symptomatic infections from the current outbreaks, with the authorities limiting movement within the cities and trips outside.
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