Covid-19: Chinese capital on alert as partly-locked down Tianjin’s cases jump
China’s first community-based Omicron outbreak has partially locked down the northern city of Tianjin and put officials in neighbouring Beijing on high alert with health authorities tracking down cases from the same transmission chain to the central province of Henan.
At least 21 more cases of Covid-19 were reported in the port city of Tianjin, some 130km and a 40-minute high-speed train ride away from Beijing, for Sunday, the national health commission (NHC) said on Monday, taking the total number to 40.
At least two Omicron cases were confirmed on Sunday (for Saturday), health authorities said. It wasn’t clear if there were more cases of the highly transmissible Omicron variant among the 41 officially confirmed cases.
Worryingly for the government, the Tianjin outbreak has been linked to two Omicron cases reported on Monday in the city of Anyang around 400km away in Henan province.
Coming weeks ahead of the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics, the new outbreak will further test China’s “dynamic Covid” policy, which means stamping out the smallest number of cases with mass testing and lockdowns.
Announcing a partial lockdown in Tianjin, city authorities have said the general public should not leave Tianjin unless it is essential to do so as health officials carry out nucleic acid tests on nearly 14 million residents of the city.
Tianjin’s mass testing scheme, which is expected to be completed by the end of Monday, is part of its effort to “resolutely prevent the virus spreading to other provinces, regions and cities, especially Beijing”, the city government said in a letter to residents.
Those who need to leave must obtain official permission and test negative for the virus within 48 hours of their departure, the local government added.
Schools and university campuses have been closed, and Beijing-bound trains from Tianjin have been cancelled; road checkpoints have been set up to check vehicles before being allowed to enter the capital.
“Tianjin’s experience with controlling and treating the Omicron variant will provide invaluable experience for other regions to fight the epidemic,” Zhang Boli, from the Chinese Academy of Engineering was quoted as saying by state media on Monday.
Zhang added that the Tianjin outbreak showed that the proportion of young among the infected group, especially primary and secondary school students, was relatively high, and authorities should be vigilant about it.
On Monday, Tianjin launched an emergency response mechanism to guarantee the supply of daily necessities.
According to the Tianjin municipal bureau of commerce, local authorities have mobilised major wholesale suppliers, supermarkets and vegetable markets to add inventory in order to cope with the market demand for meat, eggs and vegetables.
Across the mainland, there were 97 new local cases for Sunday, the NHC announced on Monday, besides 100 imported cases.
In the northwest, Xian - whose 13 million residents have been in lockdown since December 23 - reported 15 new local symptomatic cases on Monday, down from 30 on Sunday.
Xian has recorded more than 2,000 Covid-19 cases during the current outbreak.
The total number of confirmed Covid-19 cases on the mainland had reached 103,776 by Sunday with the death toll at 4636.
China has so far administered over 2.9 billion doses of Covid-19 vaccines until Sunday.