Chinese city to test people following country’s first omicron cases

Shanghai, China, Jan 9 (EFE).- The city of Tianjin in northern China announced Sunday that it will test its approximately 14 million inhabitants after detecting at least two local infections of the omicron variant, the first to be recorded in the mainland of the Asian country.

Local authorities said that both cases are linked and are part of the latest 20 local infections detected in the city, all in the same district, so it is likely that more will be detected during testing.

Tianjin was the first Chinese city to record an omicron case in mid-December although that was detected in a patient who had travelled overseas unlike the current scenario, in which the infected had not left the city in the last two weeks.

The large-scale testing began at 7 am on Sunday and is expected to be completed in about 24 hours.

The city, located just over 100 kilometers (62 miles) from Beijing, has locked down 29 residential complexes, partially closed two subway lines and canceled at least 144 flights at Binhai airport.

Renowned epidemiologist Zhang Wenhong on Saturday slammed the notion that the omicron variant is considered less virulent than other mutations and said that the world should only reopen – China has kept its borders practically sealed since March 2020 – when a “strong immunological barrier” has been built and the Covid death rates are “very low,” official Global Times newspaper reported Sunday .

This week, the head of the national Covid-19 response team of medical experts, Zhong Nanshan, declared that the country has already achieved herd immunity after fully vaccinating more than 83 percent of the population.

The Chinese authorities continue to maintain a zero tolerance policy against Covid-19, which has kept the country practically isolated from other countries for almost two years but which has also allowed it to maintain a very low level of infection compared to other countries through a response centered on large-scale testing and lockdowns on the detection of any outbreak, no matter how small.

Several outbreaks have been detected in China since mid-October, which have led to more than 7,000 cases – including 5,000 locally transmitted ones – but no deaths.

This is a significant year for the country as it will host the Winter Olympics in Beijing in February and hold an important political congress of the Communist Party of China in October, an event that is only held every five years and in which the party’s leader, Xi Jinping, will be looking to gain another term. EFE


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