Another Chinese city entered lockdown today, forcing five million more people to stay inside their homes as the country battles Covid-19 outbreaks.
Anyang, in Henan province, was locked down after a handful of reported cases as Beijing prepares to host the Winter Olympics next month, sticking to a zero-Covid strategy of targeted lockdowns, border restrictions and lengthy quarantines.
While those measures have kept the number of new cases far lower than virus hotspots in the United States and Europe, China is currently facing local flare-ups in multiple cities, caused in-part by the Omicron variant.
Fast-spreading Omicron presents a fresh challenge to China, with two cases in Anyang linked to a growing infection cluster in the northern metropolis of Tianjin, some 250 miles away.
China’s desperation to limit the spread of Omicron was demonstrated further on Tuesday when Beijing police warned residents not to help any Winter Olympic vehicles involved in crashes to avoid breaching the Games’ strict Covid ‘bubble’.
The Chinese city of Anyang entered lockdown today, forcing its five million residents to stay inside their homes as the country battles Covid-19 outbreaks. Pictured: Residents queue to undergo nucleic acid tests for the Covid-19 in Anyang, January 8, 2022
Authorities in Anyang announced the lockdown late Monday, issuing a notice ordering residents not to leave their homes or drive cars on the roads, state news agency Xinhua reported.
All non-essential businesses have been closed and a mass-testing drive has been launched ‘to respond to the severe epidemic control situation and strictly prevent the spread of the Omicron virus outbreak’, Xinhua reported.
There were 58 new local infections reported in Anyang, state broadcaster CCTV said Tuesday, bringing the city’s total caseload to 84 since Saturday.
The city had already restricted outbound travel, which local officials said was to ‘ensure that the outbreak does not spill over into outside areas’.
At least three cities in Henan are battling emerging outbreaks, with provincial capital Zhengzhou’s 13 million inhabitants inching closer to a full lockdown.
Under current rules, schools and kindergartens have been closed along with all non-essential businesses.
Last week, the one million people in Yuzhou – also a city in Henan – were told to stay at home. Xi’an, home to 13 million people, is in its third week of lockdown.
China reported 110 new local virus cases Tuesday, a tiny figure compared with the hundreds of thousands emerging daily in global hotspots such as the United States.
But they are a cause of alarm for Chinese authorities as they prepare to host the Winter Games in Beijing, with the event already expected to have tight coronavirus safety protocols.
Tianjin, which is adjacent to Winter Olympics venues in Beijing and Hebei province, confirmed another 10 new locally transmitted cases after citywide mass testing.
Zhang Boli, of the Chinese Academy of Engineering, told local television that the Tianjin cluster is the first time Omicron has been detected spreading within China.
The northern city of Xi’an is in its third week of lockdown as it attempts to stamp out a 2,000-case outbreak.
There are also flare-ups in southern China.
Authorities in Anyang announced the lockdown late Monday, issuing a notice ordering residents not to leave their homes or drive cars on the roads, state news agency Xinhua reported. Pictured: People in Anyang queue to be tested for Covid-19, January 8, 2022
The Chinese territory of Hong Kong is battling its own Omicron outbreak that began with returning airline crew.
The outbreak has upended the city’s zero-Covid success and seen a reintroduction of strict social-distancing measures including the closure of bars and gyms, and an end to evening restaurant dining.
On Tuesday, chief executive Carrie Lam announced further measures including the closure of all kindergartens and primary schools until after the Lunar New Year in early February.
Her administration has hewn to China’s closed-off blueprint but is facing growing anger from both residents and international businesses over the lack of an exit strategy.
Across the border from Hong Kong, the mainland tech hub of Shenzhen has also logged a handful of cases in recent days, sparking lockdowns of some housing compounds, a mass-testing initiative and travel restrictions.
The city’s Yantian port is one of the world’s busiest, and there are fears that further lockdowns or restrictions there and in Hong Kong could compound already acute global supply problems.
The same day, Japan extended until the end of next month its strict Covid border policy that bars almost all new foreign arrivals.
Japanese authorities also announced the reopening of mass vaccination centres as they fight an Omicron-fuelled surge.
Beijing is preparing to host the Winter Olympics next month, and is sticking to a zero-Covid strategy of targeted lockdowns, border restrictions and lengthy quarantines to keep cases down ahead of the event, which will be held in a ‘closed loop’
The Winter Olympics next month will be held in a ‘closed loop’ to keep athletes and others involved with the Olympics from coming into contact with the public, according to Channel News Asia.
The bubble was ‘closed’ last week, thousands of staff, cleaners, cooks and coach drivers into isolation to avoid contact with those outside the bubble.
As part of the strict measures in place to maintain the bubble, the general public in Beijing have been told not to intervene in traffic incidents involving Olympic vehicles.
‘In case of traffic accidents with special vehicles for the Winter Olympics, please pay attention to maintaining a safe distance,’ Beijing’s Traffic Management Bureau said in a post on the Chinese social media platform Weibo.
‘Do not make contact with vehicles or personnel in them and wait for professionals to arrive at the scene.’
Around 3,000 athletes, along with the global sports media, are expected to begin arriving in Beijing in the weeks ahead, and will remain in the bubble from the moment they land until they leave China.
Those entering the bubble must be fully vaccinated, or face a 21-day quarantine when they arrive. They will be tested daily and must wear face masks at all times.
The ‘closed loop’ system has a dedicated transport system that will take participants between venues, and even has a high-speed rail system that will operate in parallel to those that are open to the public.