Zero-Covid China fights for Omicron control as tightening restrictions

Tianjin was the first to detect Omicron in China on Saturday. Now, it is launching a second round for mass testing of its 14 million residents Wednesday. As of Tuesday noon, 97 people had already tested positive.

The spread of the virus to Anyang, a city located in Henan, has been confirmed. It is now under full lockdown. Two recent Tianjin returnees tested positive in Dalian, northeast China on Wednesday. There are fears that the new variant may have spread to another city.

Beijing officials are especially concerned about the Omicron outbreak. Beijing lies approximately 80 miles northwest Tianjin, and is only 30 minutes away via high-speed rail. On February 4, the Winter Olympics will be held in Beijing.

Officials from Tianjin announced Tuesday at a press conference that all bus services to Beijing were suspended. Since Sunday evening, online purchases of train tickets between Tianjin-Beijing have been restricted.

According to VariFlight flight tracking app VariFlight, Wednesday saw 425 cancellations at Tianjin International Airport. This accounts for 95%.

On Sunday, Tianjin authorities ordered residents not to leave the city except for an emergency. Anyone wishing to leave Tianjin must submit a negative Covid test within 48 hours. They also need to get approval from their employer and local government offices.

Zhang Ying, deputy head of Tianjin’s disease control center, stated in an interview that Omicron was very fast when confronted directly. InterviewMonday with state broadcaster CCTV

“Therefore, regardless of whether it’s in terms virus origin tracking, epidemiological investigations or controls, the Omicron variation has presented unprecedentedly large challenges,” she stated.

After two Omicron cases related to the Tianjin epidemic were identified over the weekend, Anyang, Henan province, was placed under strict lockdown Tuesday. There have been 123 reported cases in the city.

All 5.5million residents in Anyang are restricted to their houses, and all businesses and factories are closed. Nearly a dozen people have tested positive for this virus and more than 4,000 school staff members were transferred to government-run quarantine centers. Video footage from state media shows students from elementary to high school wearing full hazmat suit being uploaded onto buses.

The virus was believed to be brought back by a university student who went to Anyang on December 28 to get winter break from Tianjin.

Wednesday saw the opening of health facilities in Dalian, Liaoning, province. Two university students returned from Tianjin Saturday morning had positive tests for Covid.

Authorities didn’t specify whether students had Omicron. However, their travel records showed that they had spent five consecutive days in Jinnan where the Omicron epidemic was at its worst before moving on to Tianjin. They were negative for Omicron when they left Tianjin, and again Monday after arriving in Dalian.

Residents line up for Covid tests in Tianjin on January 10.

Omicron’s arrival has raised questions about the efficacy of China-made vaccines like Sinovac and Sinopharm.

Vaccines, even the more effective Western-made, mRNA vaccines provide less protection against Omicron. According to data from the United States, fully vaccinated people account for a rising share of patients hospitalized with Covid-19. But hospitalizations in people who have had a booster shot are rare. The gap in vaccine status has also been widening, especially among non-vaccinated.
In Tianjin, Epidemiological studiesOn 80 Omicron-infected people, 76 had been fully vaccinated using Chinese-made vaccines. Twenty had also received booster shots. Three of the 80 people infected with Omicron had only received one dose and one child had not been vaccinated.

China has not approved Pfizer and other mRNA-based vaccines from the West.

Omicron and Delta cases continue to rise across the country. This has prompted local authorities to put in place a series of restrictions. Beijing is one of many cities that have asked residents to stay in their city during the Lunar New Year holiday. This holiday is the most important for Chinese families to reunite.

On Tuesday, Zhengzhou was shut down by authorities. The provincial capital of Henan banned all non-essential business, including beauty salons. It also banned eating in restaurants. Zhengzhou reported more than 100 cases in this year’s first quarter.

Yuzhou, another Henan city, has had its 1.2 million residents locked down since January 2, to combat a Delta epidemic that infected 234 people.

China’s 20million residents are under tight lockdown. 13 million are in Xi’an, the northwestern city. They are beginning their third week in home confinement.

Eight cases of the Delta have been reported in Shenzhen’s southern metropolis since Friday. Imported goods are the likely source of the outbreak, according to Shenzhen’s health authorities.

China reported 166 symptomatic infected people on Wednesday, with 118 in Henan, 33 in Tianjin and 8 in Xi’an.