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China testing 14 million in Tianjin after Omicron cluster spreads, threatens Winter Olympics


The numbers are small, but the major port of Tianjin may be facing China’s first outbreak of Omicron of any size, less than four weeks before the Winter Olympics open in nearby Beijing.

The city began mass testing of its 14 million residents yesterday after a cluster of 20 children and adults tested positive for COVID-19, including at least two with the Omicron variant.

Officials said the virus has been circulating so the number of cases could grow.

Tianjin, a major Chinese port city near the capital Beijing, began mass testing of its 14 million residents on Sunday, after a cluster of a dozen of children and adults tested positive for COVID-19, including a few with the Omicron variant. (Zhao Zishuo/Xinhua via AP)

China has stepped up its strict zero tolerance strategy in the run-up to the Olympics, which open February 4.

The Chinese capital is 115 kilometres northwest of Tianjin and many people regularly travel back and forth by car or on a high-speed rail link that takes less than one hour.

Elsewhere, millions of people are being confined to their homes in Xi’an and Yuzhou, two cities that are farther away but have larger outbreaks.

Both have been traced to the Delta variant. The outbreak in Yuzhou is also affecting Zhengzhou, the Henan provincial capital 70 kilometres to the north. Zhengzhou has been conducting mass testing and is closing schools starting today.

The first two cases confirmed in Tianjin were a 10-year-old girl and a 29-year-old woman working at the after-school centre.

Both were infected by the Omicron variant. In subsequent testing of close contacts, 18 others tested positive and 767 tested negative as of Saturday night.

The Tianjin outbreak has officials on edge with just weeks before the Winter Olympics get underway in Beijing. (Chinatopix Via AP)

Those infected include 15 students from eight to 13 years old, the after-school centre staff member and four parents.

The citywide testing is to be completed over two days. Tianjin has also closed some subway stations on two lines to try to prevent further spread.

China had reported about a dozen Omicron cases previously, most among people who had arrived from abroad and were isolated.

Municipal workers sanitize the areas surrounding the Giza pyramids complex in hopes of curbing the coronavirus outbreak in Egypt, Wednesday, March 25, 2020.

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In one case in mid-December, the infection was not detected until after the person had completed two weeks of quarantine, and it spread to a few close contacts in the southern city of Guangzhou.



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