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China: Twenty Million Under Strict COVID Containment Amid Fears Omicron May Disrupt Beijing Winter Olympics | World news

About 20 million people in China are now subject to a stay-at-home order after a third city implemented a strict COVID lockdown.

Anyang in Henan Province, with a population of 5.5 million, confirmed a lockdown after 84 cases were detected since Saturday – at least two of them Omicron.

Mass testing is underway – established practice in China after even a handful of cases – and non-essential vehicles are banned from driving.

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The Winter Olympics – which take place in and around Beijing – begin February 4

Thirteen million people in Xian and 1.1 million in Yuzhou are already locked up due to cases of the Delta variant.

Multi-level restrictions were also imposed on Tianjin – about an hour from Beijing – after two cases of Omicron were detected among 49 positive tests in the last days.

The highly contagious variant has so far not taken hold in China as it has in Europe and United States.

However, there are fears that a larger epidemic could cause problems for the Winter Olympics next month, in a country that has a zero-COVID Politics.

“If cluster mass transmission occurs, it will definitely impact the games and the schedule,” said Huang Chun, a games manager responsible for disease control.

“The worst-case scenario, if it occurs, is beyond human control, so we leave our options open.”

Trains and buses from Tianjin to Beijing – the host city of the Olympics – have been suspended and people are urged not to leave the city unless it is urgent.

Chinese New Year is also just weeks away – a time when tens of millions of people normally travel to spend time with their families.

Xi'an is also largely deserted due to a lockdown caused by the Delta cases.  Photo: AP
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Xi’an is also largely deserted due to a lockdown caused by the Delta cases. Photo: AP

Omicron’s cases in Anyang and Tianjin are believed to be linked, apparently the first time the variant has spread in mainland China beyond people arriving from overseas and their contacts.

Some are not allowed to leave the house

Tianjin’s 14 million residents must now test negative if they leave the city and 279 checkpoints have been set up, according to deputy transport director Liu Daogang.

The city has been divided into three levels of restrictions, state broadcaster CCTV said, with people not allowed to leave their homes in the first level at all.

At the second level, only one family member can go out to buy food every two days, while at the third level, people must stay in their neighborhood.

There is hardly any traffic on some roads in Tianjing after a partial lockdown there.  Photo: AP
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There is hardly any traffic on some roads in Tianjin after the imposition of a multi-level lock. Photo: AP

The first coronavirus outbreak has been detected in China, but a zero tolerance approach appears to have limited cases and deaths – especially compared to its huge population.

Risk of new inflationary pressures

Some 4,636 people have died from the virus in mainland China, according to government figures, while there have been 103,968 confirmed cases.

But it came at a cost. Analysts say there are risks that additional closures resulting from epidemics will further disrupt supply chains, which could further increase inflationary pressures.

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