China's Tianjin starts new round of mass testing as Covid-19 infections grow

People line up for nucleic acid testing during a citywide mass testing in Tianjin on Jan 9, 2022. PHOTO: REUTERS

BEIJING (REUTERS) - The Chinese city of Tianjin started a new round of Covid-19 testing of its 14 million residents on Wednesday (Jan 12) to block the spread of Omicron, while some analysts said curbs to be imposed because of the variant could dent China's economic growth.

Tianjin reported 33 domestically transmitted coronavirus infections with confirmed symptoms for Tuesday, up from 10 a day earlier, national data showed.

The city ordered a half-day off for employees at companies and other institutions on Wednesday and required them to remain at home to comply with the city's second round of mass testing, the local government said in a statement.

In the central city of Anyang, where Omicron has also been detected in the community, local symptomatic cases number surged to 65 on Tuesday from just two a day earlier.

The case loads in Tianjin and Anyang are small compared with many outbreaks outside China, with the total number of Omicron infections unclear.

The two cities have restricted residents' movement within the cities and made it harder for people to leave town as mass testing campaigns are ongoing.

The country is likely to see a higher average level of virus restrictions to contain the highly transmissible Omicron, Goldman Sachs analysts said in a note, revising down their 2022 growth forecast for China to 4.3 per cent from 4.8 per cent previously, citing economic costs from the potentially intensified measures.

Analysts at Morgan Stanley also said they saw downside risk to their forecast of growth in the first quarter this year, as Omicron could "imply more costs than benefits under China's Covid-Zero strategy".

China's policy of extinguishing clusters quickly has taken on extra urgency in the run-up to the Winter Olympics, to be staged in Beijing and neighbouring Hebei province from Feb 4, and with the Chinese New Year holiday travel season beginning later this month.

Including infections in Tianjin and Anyang, mainland China reported a total of 166 local symptomatic cases for Tuesday, more than 110 a day earlier.

There were no new deaths, leaving the death toll at 4,636.

As at Tuesday, mainland China had 104,189 confirmed symptomatic cases, including both local ones and those arriving from overseas.

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