China, in turn, is affected by the Omicron variant. It was supposed to appear in December 2021 in Tianjin, a city of 14 million residents 130 kilometers east of Beijing. The first asymptomatic case was detected on 13 December in a traveller who had returned from Poland four days earlier and had been quarantined. Even more worrying, on Sunday, January 9, there were other cases there that appeared to be unrelated: a 10-year-old female student and a 29-year-old school support center employee.
Meanwhile, at least two people with the variant, including a student, traveled about 500 kilometers from Tianjin at the same time to Anyang, Henan province, a city of 5 million people. This is the first case of localized contamination by an Omicron variant.
On Tuesday, the Chinese government reported 10 new cases in Tianjin (31 the day before) and 87 in Henan. Tianjin and Anyang took steps as early as Sunday to test their entire populations. Beijing’s zero-outbreak policy does require cities with a population of more than 5 million to conduct the first round of testing within three days (two for smaller cities) and repeat this over the next few days.
Tianjin special case
Tianjin is about a thirty-minute drive from Beijing’s high-speed rail, which is a special case. With more than three weeks to go before the Winter Olympics and the Chinese New Year, the Omicron variant is showing up so close to the capital that it has authorities on alert.
As of Sunday, authorities in Beijing were searching communities, schools and businesses for people who had been to Tianjin or had contact with people from Tianjin since Dec. 9. Those who have been there since the 23rd were asked not to leave their homes.
In Tianjin, more than 75,000 people were quarantined, and 14 million residents could no longer leave the city without special permits and negative tests. Booking a train from Tianjin to Beijing is now nearly impossible, highways linking the two megacities have been blocked and more than 140 flights have been cancelled as of Sunday.
Granted, Tianjin’s measures are less stringent than Xi’an, a Shaanxi city of 11 million inhabitants that has been confined to their homes since Dec. 22 after dozens of positive cases a day — until it reached 157 Dec. 27 — But Tianjin remains more or less isolated from the rest of China, and subway lines have been partially closed. The same is true in Anyang, where public transport has been drastically reduced and 1,495 contacts have been quarantined.
You have 31.88% of this article to read. The rest are for subscribers only.