Millions more people in China have been ordered shut down and Hong Kong has banned passengers from 150 places as China continues to fight outbreaks in several provinces a few weeks before the Winter Olympics.
China’s national health commission reported 110 new locally transmitted COVID-19 cases on Monday, including 87 in Henan province, 13 in Shaanxi and 10 in Tianjin.
The cases in Henan, which include at least some of the highly transmissible Omicron variant, led to the closure of five million residents in Anyang city on Monday night. Anyang recorded 58 of the 87 cases from Henan. At least two cases of Omicron have been confirmed in the city in recent days, linked to an outbreak in Tianjin, some 500 kilometers away.
Anyang residents were ordered to return home and banned from driving on the roads, according to the state Xinhua news agency. Non-essential businesses have been closed. Also in Henan, Zhengzhou City has closed schools and kindergartens and banned dining at restaurants, while Yuzhou remains locked up.
Xi’an city in northern China is in its third week of strict confinement, while Shenzhen in the south implemented specific lockdowns of some housing complexes and launched a mass testing campaign.
In many Chinese cities, public and long-distance transportation has been reduced or suspended, including several flights from the US.
Tianjin is of particular concern to the authorities because of its proximity to Beijing, and officials have vowed to fulfill the city’s role as a “moat” to protect the capital. The origin of the Omicron strain is eluding officials. Zhang Ying, deputy director of the city’s CDC, said recently that it may have been spreading “for some time” before it was detected.
With the Winter Olympics just around the corner, concerns are mounting and rumors are circulating about more severe restrictions to come. On Saturday, a 39-year-old woman was arrested for allegedly spreading false information about plans to shut down Beijing’s popular Sanlitun party district, and on Tuesday, Beijing’s organizing committee rejected rumors of plans to shut down some or all of it. the city during the games. . Deputy Director Huang Chun said the Omicron variant was spreading rapidly around the world, but that the “closed-loop” system for athletes, employees and other assistants was working “smoothly” and there was no need to adjust it unless there was a bud inside him.
In Hong Kong, where a relatively small number of Omicron cases have also been detected, authorities have reportedly planned to ban all international transit passengers from about 150 locations. Bloomberg reported Monday that the ban would be extended to air passengers from “Group A” countries, which have been designated high-risk, from January 15 to February 14. According to Bloomberg, diplomats, government officials, athletes and personnel traveling to the Games would be exempt from the ban.
China is under pressure to maintain its official commitment to a zero covid strategy that has been called into question by the latest outbreaks and Omicron cases. As of December, officials claimed to have fully vaccinated more than 82% of the population. However, there are concerns that Omicron has a substantial ability to evade immune responses and that current vaccines are less effective.
China uses Sinovac and Sinopharm, two domestically developed and produced vaccines based on inactivated viruses. Dr Daryl Cheng, medical lead at Melbourne’s Vaccine Education Center, said there were concerns that these types of vaccines appear to have a higher rate of Omicron infections.
“We are caught in a perfect storm at the moment when Omicron is significantly infectious and in places like China where they may have a higher rate of advanced infections,” Cheng told The Guardian.
“It puts the population at significant risk of infection … [and] if it opts for Covid-zero, it puts more pressure on resources. “
Cheng said that Sinovac and Sinopharm, like all vaccines currently in use, were developed before Omicron appeared, so they were all expected to have reduced effectiveness, as are vaccines against newer flu variants, which they are adjusted every year.
“The question is whether more boosters of the same vaccine achieve greater effectiveness or not. [against Omicron], instead of having to mix and match, instead of developing a newer version of the traditional vaccine, “he said.
“It is a very complex and multifactorial discussion because you may not have the time or availability [to get it to people]. “
Some countries are giving citizens a booster in addition to the two doses with a different type of vaccine, often a type of mRNA. China had indicated that it would approve the mRNA vaccine developed by Pfizer for home use in 2021, but it has not. There are no mRNA vaccines approved for use in China. Cheng said China may be developing an mRNA vaccine, but that Omicron was “spreading day by day.”
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism