Omicron detected in Beijing as China battles COVID-19 clusters

Officials in the Chinese capital said, Saturday, that a case of Omicron has been detected in Beijing, as the country battles an outbreak of the highly contagious coronavirus ahead of the Winter Olympics.

The announcement comes a day after the southern city of Zhuhai imposed travel restrictions on residents as a mass testing campaign revealed seven infections.

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Millions of people across the country have been ordered to stay at home in recent weeks, with dozens of domestic flights canceled and factories closed, as the country tries to control a series of small coronavirus outbreaks, including several omicron variants, before the next. Beijing Olympics month.

One locally transmitted case of Omicron has been detected in the capital’s Haidian District, home to many technology company headquarters, city official Pang Xinghu said at a press conference, in a rare breach of Beijing’s closely guarded COVID-19 coronavirus defenses.

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Pang said authorities are testing other occupants in the patient’s apartment complex and office building, and have restricted access to 17 sites linked to those infected.

Beijing has long banned people from entering parts of the country that have reported cases, while requiring all arrivals to submit recent COVID-19 tests.

Residents have also been urged in recent weeks not to leave the city for the upcoming Spring Festival holiday.

On Friday, the coastal city of Zhuhai, which borders Macau’s gambling hub, said one omicron was detected in one with mild illness and six asymptomatic patients.

Zhuhai officials have asked residents to avoid leaving the city “unless necessary,” with those required to show negative COVID test results in the past 24 hours.

The city began mass testing for its 2.4 million residents Friday after a COVID case was discovered in neighboring Zhongshan earlier in the week.

Businesses including beauty salons, card rooms, gyms and cinemas were ordered to close on Thursday, with officials announcing the suspension of public bus routes in parts of the city.

China has kept COVID-19 cases relatively low throughout the pandemic with its zero-tolerance strategy that immediately requires mass testing and strict lockdowns when infections are detected.

Severe lockdowns have been imposed on small cities in China as millions of people have been ordered to stay at home and get tested, while economic hubs such as Shanghai and Beijing have shut down and only specific neighborhoods have been tested in a more targeted effort.

But the rapidly spreading omicron variant has tested this strategy in recent weeks, emerging in the port city of Tianjin near Beijing before spreading to the central city of Anyang.

National Health Commission spokesman Mi Feng told reporters Saturday that the country faces a “dual challenge” from the Delta and Omicron strains of the virus.

He warned that areas that have not yet experienced an outbreak “should not relax” their prevention measures and “enhance risk audits”.

The country reported 104 locally transmitted cases of the novel coronavirus on Saturday.

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