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‘Zero-Covid’ China fights as restrictions tighten in major city

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China’s northern port city of Tianjin and central province of Henan have further tightened Covid restrictions as the highly contagious Omicron variant continues to spread, posing the gravest challenge yet to the country’s zero-Covid strategy.

Tianjin, which detected China’s first community spread of Omicron on Saturday, is rolling out a second round of mass testing on its 14 million residents on Wednesday. As of noon Tuesday, 97 people had tested positive, according to CNN.

The outbreak has already spread to Anyang, a city in Henan province some 300 miles (482 kilometers) away, prompting a full lockdown. On Wednesday, the city of Dalian in northeastern China said two recent returnees from Tianjin had tested positive — raising fears that the new variant has spread to another city.

The Omicron outbreak is particularly worrying to officials in Beijing, which lies about 80 miles northwest of Tianjin — and about 30 minutes away by high-speed rail. The Chinese capital is due to host the Winter Olympics on February 4.

Tianjin officials said at a news conference Tuesday that all bus services to Beijing had been suspended. Train tickets from Tianjin to Beijing have been closed for purchase online since Sunday evening.

On Wednesday, 425 flights were canceled at Tianjin Binhai International Airport, accounting for 95% of all scheduled flights, according to flight tracking app VariFlight.

Tianjin authorities on Sunday ordered citizens not to leave the city unless absolutely necessary. Those who want to leave must present a negative Covid test taken within 48 hours and obtain approval from their employer or local government offices.

On Tuesday, Anyang city in Henan province was placed under strict lockdown, after two Omicron cases linked to the Tianjin outbreak were identified over the weekend. The city has reported a total of 123 cases.

Across China, about 20 million people are now under strict lockdown, including 13 million residents of the northwestern city of Xi’an, who are entering their third week of home confinement.

The arrival of Omicron has again raised concerns about the effectiveness of China’s domestically made vaccines such as Sinovac and Sinopharm.

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SourceCNN
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