Port city Tianjin mass tests residents after Omicron community spread

People line up for nucleic acid testing during a citywide mass testing for Covid-19, in Tianjin, China on Jan 9, 2022. PHOTO: REUTERS
Residents lining up for Covid-19 tests in Tianjin, China, on Jan 9, 2022. PHOTO: EPA-EFE
The mass testing in Tianjin comes after the city recorded its first community spread of the Omicron variant. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

BEIJING - Major port city Tianjin has begun mass-testing its 14 million residents following its first community-spread Omicron cases on Sunday (Jan 9).

Two people have been confirmed to be infected by the latest coronavirus variant, according to local media reports.

The confirmed Omicron cases belong to a cluster of 20 children and adults at an after-school care centre in Tianjin, which borders Beijing, the capital city.

They include 15 students aged between eight and 13, a staff member at the centre and four parents.

The Omicron patients are a 10-year-old student and the staff member, who is a 29-year-old woman. Neither have travelled out of the city in the past 14 days, the reports added.

The mass testing, which started on Sunday, is expected to end by Monday (Jan 10).

The latest community spread in Tianjin comes as China, which has a strict zero-tolerance policy against Covid-19, continues its fight against outbreaks in other parts of the country.

Beijing has also been on high alert by making it mandatory for anyone entering the city to undergo Covid-19 testing and allowing only fully vaccinated individuals in for certain events as it prepares to host the Winter Olympics on Feb 4. 

Xi’an, the provincial capital of Shaanxi in northern China, has reported more than 1,900 cases in its latest flare-up. The city of 13 million people have also been under a strict lockdown for weeks.

Zhengzhou, the provincial capital of Henan province in central China, issued a notification on Saturday Jan 8 ordering all primary, secondary schools and kindergartens in the city to halt in-person classes from Monday, among other restrictions. 

Officials said on Saturday that 175 cases spread from Henan to Shanghai and Zhejiang province in south-eastern China.

Mainland China reported 92 new Covid-19 cases on Sunday, with 56 of them from Henan, 30 from Shaanxi, three in Tianjin, two in Zhejiang in south-eastern China and one in Guangdong province in the south.

There were also 73 new imported cases, according to the National Health Commission. 

Tianjin native Clarence Dong, 30, who is working as a project manager in Beijing, told The Straits Times that he is not optimistic about going back home - which is just less than an hour by train from Beijing - to celebrate the upcoming Chinese New Year after the confirmed Omicron cases.

Mr Dong was planning to spend two weeks in Tianjin, before returning to work in Beijing.

“The new Omicron cases have really spoiled Chinese New Year for me,” he said. 

“I am afraid that it will be very difficult for me to come back to Beijing if the community spread in Tianjin persists. There will surely be more travel restrictions imposed if more cases are reported,” he added.

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.