China finds imported Omicron cases in Changsha as Covid-19 outbreak grows

The central Chinese city of Changsha is the latest place to discover the highly contagious variant in incoming travellers. PHOTO: REUTERS

BEIJING (BLOOMBERG) - Two new cases of the Omicron variant of Covid-19 were detected in the central Chinese city of Changsha from arrivals into the country, state-backed media Xinhua reported on Saturday (Dec 18) citing the municipal government.

The provincial capital of Hunan is the latest place to discover the highly contagious variant in incoming travellers, after the southern province of Guangdong and the northern metropolis of Tianjin reported cases earlier this month.

The infected people never left closed-loop quarantine controls and are being treated in hospitals, according to local health authorities.

A student at an art studio in Beijing’s Tongzhou district also tested positive for Covid-19 on Sunday, according to the local health commission.

Those who had contact with the student were quarantined, the health commission said in a statement on Sunday, without providing the number of people who had been isolated. It did not specify the Covid-19 variant the person was infected with.

Omicron has put China's zero-Covid-19 strategy under pressure, although no local transmissions of the variant have yet been reported.

While China is less exposed to the spread of Omicron because of its closed borders for now, increased risks are on the horizon.

Beijing will host the Winter Olympics in less than 50 days, when tens of thousands of foreigners will be allowed to enter the country.

Reports recently show that Chinese shots given to the vast majority of its highly vaccinated population do not provide sufficient antibodies against Omicron.

China must maintain strict control measures at ports and borders ahead of the Olympic events, Dr Liang Wannian, an epidemiologist who leads China's special task force on the pandemic response, said at a press conference on Saturday.

Meanwhile, a local outbreak of non-Omicron coronavirus infections continues to grow.

China reported 44 locally transmitted cases on Sunday in Zhejiang, Shaanxi and Guangdong. Four other asymptomatic infections were reported, including one in the financial hub of Shanghai, according to the National Health Commission.

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