At least 5 million residents under lockdown in China, Beijing on high alert ahead of Winter Olympics
Fast-spreading Omicron poses a new problem, with two cases in Anyang, a recently locked-down city in Henan province, linked to a growing illness cluster in Tianjin, 400 kilometres (250 miles) distant.
Five million people in a key Chinese metropolis were confined to their homes on Tuesday. At the same time, another megacity closed all non-essential enterprises as the country grappled with a rash of coronavirus infections, including the Omicron type. As it prepares to host the Winter Olympics next month, Beijing is on high alert, employing a zero-Covid approach of targeted lockdowns, border restrictions, and extended quarantines. While these precautions have kept the number of new infections significantly lower than in viral hotspots in the United States and Europe, China is presently experiencing local flare-ups in several locations.
Fast-spreading Omicron poses a new problem, with two cases in Anyang, a recently locked-down city in Henan province, linked to a growing illness cluster in Tianjin, 400 kilometres (250 miles) distant. Authorities in Anyang announced a lockdown late Monday, according to state news agency Xinhua, issuing a warning urging locals not to leave their homes or drive autos on public roads.
All non-essential enterprises have been closed, and a mass-testing campaign has begun "to respond to the extreme epidemic control situation and carefully restrict the spread of the Omicron virus outbreak," according to Xinhua. The city has previously banned outward travel, citing the need to "guarantee that the infection does not spread to other locations."
At least three cities in Henan are dealing with growing breakouts, with the provincial capital Zhengzhou's 13 million residents on the verge of a total lockdown. Schools and kindergartens, as well as all non-essential enterprises, have been shuttered under existing regulations. One million residents in Yuzhou were given stay-at-home orders last week.
Tianjin, a large port city about 150 kilometres from Beijing, has prohibited individuals from travelling without official authorization, ordered the testing of all 14 million citizens, and cancelled trains into the capital. Tianjin, near the Winter Olympics sites in Beijing and Hebei province, verified ten additional domestically transmitted cases following citywide mass testing.
Hong Kong, a Chinese colony, is dealing with its own Omicron pandemic, which began with returning airline personnel. The epidemic has upended the city's zero-Covid success and resulted in the restoration of social-distancing solid measures such as the closing of pubs and gyms, as well as the cessation of nighttime restaurant meals. On Tuesday, Carrie Lam, the chief executive, announced more measures, including the shutdown of all kindergartens and primary schools until after the Lunar New Year in early February.