Officials in the northern Chinese port city of Tianjin, near Beijing, said on Sunday that its 14 million residents will be tested for the coronavirus after it was detected in 20 residents, at least two of whom were infected with the fast-moving omicron. alternative.
Mass testing over the weekend revealed that 20 people had contracted the coronavirus, according to a report published by the city’s official news service late Sunday.
The city also announced a set of restrictions in an effort to contain the outbreak and trace its source. The first infection was confirmed, on Saturday, in a 10-year-old girl and a 29-year-old woman who works at an after-school center. Tracing and testing later that day resulted in 18 more positive tests among their contacts, including 15 students.
Tianjin is about 70 miles from Beijing, so the outbreak of cases is particularly worrying for Chinese leaders, as the capital prepares to host the Winter Olympics in less than a month.
State media reported that Li Hongzhong, Tianjin’s Communist Party secretary, pledged that the city would “fully fulfill” its role as a “trencher” protecting Beijing.
According to the state-run Tianjin Daily, Mr. Lee told officials, “The city’s epidemic prevention is at a critical moment.” “Tracing the source of the outbreak should be the most urgent and important task.”
City-wide testing is nothing new to China. But even with the country’s vast resources to test residents and track their movements, dealing with the outbreak in Tianjin may not be easy.
Zhang Ying, deputy director of the Tianjin Center for Disease Control and Prevention, said at a press conference that the virus may have “already circulated in the community for some time” before it was detected. Neither the 29-year-old nor the 10-year-old, who tested positive for the virus, has left Tianjin.
Government experts also said that the Omicron strain found in two Tianjin residents may not be the same as that found in the city’s recent international arrivals.
Many Chinese are proud that their country, since suppressing the world’s first outbreak of the virus in Wuhan, has avoided the waves of infection that swept most of the world. But the strict controls of the authoritarian state, which have kept China largely closed, have not been able to completely banish the virus, and severe infections of Omicron could pose a new level of danger.
Tianjin authorities have ordered residents to limit their travel and to leave the city only when absolutely necessary. They have also placed about 30 residential areas under complete closure and closed some subway stations.
But officials also appear to be trying to reassure residents that Tianjin will not repeat the slips of Xi’an, a city of 13 million people in northwest China. The city of Xi’an witnessed a wave of public outcry after the rapid lockdown led to food shortages and some people refusing medical treatment, including at least one pregnant woman who had a miscarriage after being denied hospital admission.
Mr. Li, head of the Tianjin Party, told local officials to ensure residents get their daily needs, including medical care.