As the extremely contagious Omicron form continues to spread, China’s northern port city of Tianjin and central province of Henan have tightened Covid restrictions even further, posing the gravest challenge yet to the country’s zero-Covid goal.
On Wednesday, Tianjin will conduct a second round of mass testing on its 14 million citizens, after detecting China’s first community outbreak of Omicron on Saturday. 97 persons have tested positive as of Tuesday lunchtime.
The disease has already moved to Anyang, Henan Province, 300 miles (482 kilometers) distant, forcing a complete lockdown. Two recent returnees from Tianjin tested positive on Wednesday in Dalian, northeastern China, sparking worries that the new type had spread to another city.
Officials in Beijing, which is roughly 80 miles northwest of Tianjin and about 30 minutes distant by high-speed train, are particularly concerned about the Omicron epidemic. On February 4, the Chinese capital will host the Winter Olympics.
At a press conference on Tuesday, Tianjin officials announced that all bus routes to Beijing had been halted. Since Sunday evening, train tickets from Tianjin to Beijing have been unavailable for purchase online.
According to the flight tracking software VariFlight, 425 flights were canceled at Tianjin Binhai International Airport on Wednesday, representing for 95 percent of all planned flights.
Citizens of Tianjin were told on Sunday not to leave the city unless it was absolutely essential. Those who wish to leave must provide proof of a negative Covid test within 48 hours and get permission from their employer or local government agencies.
In an interview with official broadcaster CCTV on Monday, Zhang Ying, deputy head of Tianjin’s disease control center, stated, “When facing Omicron directly, we found its speed of transmission really is very fast,”
“Therefore, whether it is in terms of virus origin tracing, epidemiological investigations or restrictions and controls, the Omicron variant has brought unprecedentedly massive challenges,” she stated.
After two Omicron cases connected to the Tianjin epidemic were detected over the weekend, Anyang city in Henan province was placed under heavy lockdown on Tuesday. A total of 123 cases have been documented throughout the city.
All 5.5 million people of Anyang are confined to their homes, and all businesses and enterprises are closed. After over a dozen people tested positive for the virus, more than 4,000 kids and employees from a school were relocated to government-run quarantine facilities. Videos from state media show pupils in full hazmat suits being put onto buses, ranging from elementary to high school.
A university student who returned from Tianjin for winter vacation on December 28 is thought to have carried the virus back to Anyang, implying that the variation had been circulating in Tianjin for at least two weeks.
Two university students who returned from Tianjin on Saturday tested positive for Covid in the morning, according to health officials in Dalian, Liaoning province.
The kids had spent five days in Jinnan district, where the Omicron epidemic was the worst, before departing Tianjin by train, according to their travel records. They tested negative when they departed Tianjin and again when they arrived in Dalian on Monday.