Beijing on Saturday reported the city’s first locally transmitted infection of the highly infectious omicron coronavirus variant, according to state media, raising alarm just weeks ahead of China’s staging of the Olympic Winter Games.
Officials have sealed up the infected person’s residential compound and workplace, and collected 2,430 samples for testing from people linked to the two locations, a Haidian district official said.
China has been pursuing a strict zero-Covid policy ahead of the Winter Olympics, due to start Feb. 4, with cities across the country locking down after just a few cases of the coronavirus were detected.
The total number of omicron cases now in China is unclear but officials have confirmed that locally transmitted infections have also been detected in at least four other provinces and municipalities.
Beijing’s first locally transmitted omicron case comes as millions of people travel across the country and return to China from overseas for the Lunar New Year holiday starting at the end of the month.
Many local governments have advised residents not to leave town unnecessarily during the holiday, while dozens of international and domestic flights have been suspended.
He Qinghua, an official at the National Health Commission (NHC), said in a briefing earlier on Saturday that the omicron variant had also been detected in Shanghai, without specifying the case count. He did not say whether the variant had been found locally or among travellers from overseas.
As of Jan. 14, mainland China had 104,745 confirmed cases of Covid-19. China’s official death toll is at 4,636.