A third Chinese city has closed its doors due to a COVID-19 outbreak, bringing the total number of people confined to their homes in China to almost 20 million.
It was unclear how long the city of Anyang, which has a population of 5.5 million people, would be under siege. When epidemics occur across the country, mass testing is required as routine protocol.
Another 13 million people have been confined in Xi’an, and 1.1 million in Yuzhou, with limitations put on the port city of Tianjin, which is only about an hour from Beijing and will host the Winter Olympics starting on February 4th.
Huang Chun, a games official in charge of illness management, said organizers are banking on athletes and authorities to work together to avoid a sickness epidemic that may impede participation.
“If the mass cluster transmission occurs, it would undoubtedly have an influence on the games and the schedule,” Huang added. “The worst-case scenario, if it occurs, is unaffected by man’s will, therefore we keep our choices open.”
Following reports of illnesses in pupils, Hong Kong announced the shutdown of kindergartens and primary schools. Schools must shutter on Friday and stay closed until the Lunar New Year holiday, which falls in the first week of February.
Following the discovery that the omicron form has expanded beyond those arriving from outside, Hong Kong has increased pandemic-related restrictions in recent days.
The closure of Anyang came after the confirmation on Monday of two instances of omicron, which are thought to be related to two additional cases discovered in Tianjin on Saturday. It appears to be the first time omicron has spread beyond persons who have just arrived from outside and their direct contacts in mainland China.
According to a city notification issued by state media late Monday, residents are not permitted to leave their houses, non-essential cars are prohibited from the streets, and businesses are closed save for those selling essentials.
Both Xi’an and Yuzhou are fighting the delta variety, but neither has recorded any occurrences of omicron. In China’s worst epidemic in recent months, over 2,000 individuals have been sick in Xi’an, the ancient capital that is home to the Terracotta Warrior relics and key enterprises in computer chips and aerospace.