To halt the spread of the highly transmissible Omicron strain, the northern Chinese city of Tianjin has strengthened departure controls and requires citizens to acquire consent from employers or community officials before leaving town.
The port city southeast of Beijing recorded 21 domestically transmitted cases with proven symptoms on Sunday, as per the National Health Commission on Monday.
Tianjin, which has a population of over 14 million people, reported over the weekend that it has discovered two local cases of Omicron infection. The source of the illnesses and their path into the community were unknown, and officials had yet to reveal how many additional local cases were caused by Omicron.
The highly transmissible Omicron form is fast spreading throughout the world, pushing some nations to tighten travel restrictions and posing a new challenge to China’s attempts to quickly eradicate local outbreaks.
China’s rapid containment plan has taken on added urgency in the run-up to the Winter Olympics, which begins Feb. 4 in Beijing and neighboring Hebei province, and the Lunar New Year holiday travel season, which begins later this month.
Tianjin’s mass testing scheme, which it aims to complete in two days, is part of its effort to “resolutely prevent the virus spreading to other provinces, regions and cities, especially Beijing”, the city government said in a letter to residents on Monday.
The city of Anyang in China’s central Henan province reported two local Omicron infections related to a student arriving from Tianjin. It was unclear how many additional local cases in Anyang were Omicron. From Sunday, all bus services in the metropolis of 5.5 million people were stopped.
Before the Tianjin and Anyang outbreaks, China has documented a small number of Omicron cases among overseas visitors, as well as at least one locally transmitted Omicron illness.