The lockdowns are the widest since the closure of Wuhan and most of the rest of Hubei province in early 2020 at the start of the pandemic. Since then, China’s approach has evolved to target smaller areas affected by epidemics for lockdowns.
The approach of the Winter Olympics, which open February 4 in Beijing, and the emergence of Omicron have brought back city-wide closures in a bid to quell epidemics and prevent them to spread to other parts of China.
A Beijing Olympics official responsible for disease control, Huang Chun, said organizers were counting on the cooperation of athletes and officials to prevent an outbreak that could affect participation.
“If cluster mass transmission occurs, it will definitely impact the Games and the schedule,” Huang said. “The worst-case scenario, if it occurs, is beyond human control, so we leave our options open. “
In Hong Kong, city leader Carrie Lam announced the closure of kindergartens and primary schools after infections were reported among students. Schools must close on Fridays and remain closed until at least the Lunar New Year holidays of the first week of February.
The semi-autonomous Chinese city has tightened restrictions related to the pandemic in recent days after discovering that the omicron variant has spread beyond people arriving from overseas.
Anyang Omicron’s cases are believed to be linked to two other cases discovered in Tianjin on Saturday. It appears to be the first time Omicron has spread to mainland China beyond people arriving from overseas and their immediate contacts.
Anyang is an important archaeological site, the ancient capital of the Shang Dynasty and where the earliest Chinese scriptures were found on so-called oracle bones.
The city said non-essential vehicles are banned on the streets in a lockdown notice shared online by state media on Monday evening. The number of cases is still relatively low, with 58 new cases confirmed from the start of Monday until 8 a.m. Tuesday morning.
Tianjin, a large port located less than an hour from Beijing by high-speed train, has only locked down affected areas as it conducts mass tests. As of noon Tuesday, 97 people had tested positive in the city of 14 million inhabitants: 49 with symptoms, 15 without symptoms and 33 awaiting further checks.
Both Xi’an and Yuzhou are battling the Delta variant, and neither have reported an Omicron case.
More than 2,000 people have been infected in Xi’an during China’s largest epidemic since the first in Wuhan. The old capital is a popular tourist stopover home to the Terracotta Warrior Ruins as well as a Samsung computer chip factory.
Authorities credited the lockdown with reducing the spread, although it has disrupted lives and emergency medical treatment for some. The city has reported 13 new cases in the past 24 hours, up from more than 100 a day at the height of the outbreak.