Chinese port city reports 41 virus cases, amid mass testing

BEIJING (AP) — Authorities in the Chinese city of Tianjin on Monday reported 41 COVID-19 infections out of 3.4 million residents tested since the discovery of two local omicron cases.

Officials say they plan to test all of the 14 million inhabitants of the large port city that lies near the capital of Beijing.

City officials said that 41 people had tested positive as of 6 p.m. local time, according to state broadcaster CCTV. Of those 31 had COVID-19 symptoms and 10 did not.

The outbreak, while small, has raised concerns because it is the first one in China linked to omicron and comes as nearby Beijing is set to host the Winter Olympics in less than a month. The port city is also an industrial hub with Volkswagen and Airbus factories.

Tianjin has locked down affected parts of the city, but so far not ordered a total lockdown. It has closed some subway stops, the zoo, museums and libraries. The citywide testing was being carried out in two phases on Sunday and Monday.

The measures, in response to a relatively small number of cases compared to other countries, shows how far China is going to shut down outbreaks as it pursues a zero COVID-19 strategy. The restrictions have only tightened ahead of the Olympics, which China and the International Olympic Committee seem determined to pull off despite the spread of the omicron variant globally.

China has locked down two other cities battling delta outbreaks, the historic ancient capital of Xi’an in Shaanxi province and the smaller city of Yuzhou in neighboring Henan province.

The number of new cases in Xi’an, home to the famed Terracotta Warriors statues in a former emperor’s tomb, fell to just 15 on Sunday, but the city of 13 million people remained locked down. Officials said that sections of the city could be opened up when they meet certain conditions including no new cases in the past 14 days.

Two omicron cases have also been found in Henan in the city of Anyang with a suspected link to Tianjan. A college student may have brought the variant from Tianjin on Dec. 28, state media outlet The Paper reported.

Most of the cases in Tianjin center around a school and an after-school center, and many of those who tested positive are students. The first two cases, a 10-year-old girl and a 29-year-old woman who works at the center, were confirmed to be omicron. The others are all or mostly close contacts, but officials have yet to confirm whether they are also the omicron variant.

China had reported about a dozen omicron cases previously, mostly among people who had arrived from abroad and had been isolated to prevent community transmission.

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