China locks down second city amid Omicron threat

Residents undergo nucleic acid tests for Covid-19 in Huaxian county, Anyang city, China on Jan 8, 2022. PHOTO: AFP

BEIJING (BLOOMBERG) - China locked down a city of five million people a day after detecting Omicron cases in the central Henan province, its second shutdown in as many months, underscoring the nation's commitment to eliminating Covid-19 as two highly transmissible variants circulate.

The authorities in the city of Anyang told residents not to leave their homes and banned the use of all vehicles after two people were reported with the more contagious Omicron variant on Monday (Jan 10).

Another 58 Covid-19 cases were disclosed on Tuesday morning, according to the local health authorities, though they did not say whether the infections were caused by Omicron.

The Omicron flare-ups in Henan and the northern port city of Tianjin pose major challenges for officials already grappling with a Delta outbreak, one of China's most protracted since the Covid-19 virus emerged more than two years ago.

Both are adjacent to Hebei province, which is hosting snow sport competitions during the Winter Olympics in Beijing that start in less than a month.

China reported 110 locally transmitted Covid-19 infections on Tuesday. Henan province is the latest epicentre, accounting for 87 of the new cases.

All companies in Anyang were required to suspend operations, other than for essential activities, until the virus risk in the city is completely eliminated, officials said. Tickets sales for travel to Beijing were also halted.

It is the second full lockdown of a Chinese city in 20 days, after the authorities told residents of Xi'an - about 650km to the west - to remain inside, starting in late December, as a Delta outbreak spread.

Two other cities in Henan province have also seen some restrictions, as the authorities limited public transportation and dining options.

Tianjin, a port city that borders Beijing, imposed partial lockdowns in two towns in the Xiqing district, according to the municipal government, as an outbreak continued to grow.

Ten locally transmitted cases were reported on Tuesday, in addition to another 11 asymptomatic infections, according to a statement from the National Health Commission.

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