The Chinese have been urged to avoid foreign athletes, but that won’t keep the Omicron variant away. Two cities, Tianjin and Henan, detected the first cases of infection, presumably too late to contain the outbreak the hard Chinese way.
China struggles with the first spread of omicron, shortly before the Chinese New Year holidays and winter games. After the discovery of forty accidents of the Omi plane crash last weekend in the coastal city of Tianjin, the alternative appeared on Monday in a second province. According to the Chinese virologist, the outbreak will be difficult to control, which raises questions about the virus eradication policy.
The first outbreak of omicron in China began on Saturday in Tianjin, a city of 14 million people 100 kilometers east of Beijing. A 10-year-old student and a 29-year-old employee at an after-school care center tested positive when they presented themselves to a doctor with minor complaints. Contact tracing and mass testing identified 40 cases over the weekend.
Tianjin City Council immediately intervened: within two days all residents were tested, forbidden to leave the city except for essential travel and with permission from above. Trains bound for Beijing have stopped. But on Monday, two Omi accidents occurred in Henan City, 500 kilometers away. The virus got there by a student who traveled from Tianjin to Henan on December 28.
The timeline shows that the omikron variant in China has been able to go under the radar for about two weeks. The Tianjin Center for Disease Control and Prevention admitted at a press conference that “the spread in the community may have been going on for some time.” There is usually extensive commuting between Tianjin and Beijing.
Chinese virologist Zhang Rongshan told commercial media that Tianjin had missed the “golden period” to contain the outbreak (the first week). He predicted that this outbreak would be difficult to contain with the usual strategy of targeted lockdowns, contact tracing and mass testing.
The Chinese authorities are firmly committed to the strategy of not spreading the virus, and state media announced a “battle against Omicron” on Monday. Beijing City Council has warned residents to stay away from cars transporting athletes from the airport to the “Olympic bubble”. If they get into an accident with Olympic vehicles, they should stay away from them and wait for professional rescuers.
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