Covid-19: Chinese city tests 14 million people

  • With less than a month left for the Winter Olympics, the discovery of a potential Omicron cluster near Beijing would have sent alarm bells ringing in the capital, some 130km away from Tianjin.
Residents queue to get a swab sample for Covid-19 coronavirus in Tianjin, in northern China on January 9, 2022. (Photo by STRINGER / AFP)(AFP)
Residents queue to get a swab sample for Covid-19 coronavirus in Tianjin, in northern China on January 9, 2022. (Photo by STRINGER / AFP)(AFP)
Published on Jan 10, 2022 07:52 AM IST
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BySutirtho Patranobis, Hindustan Times, New Delhi

Tianjin, a port city of 14 million near China’s capital Beijing, began mass testing on Sunday after a cluster of 20 adults and children tested positive for Covid-19 including at least two with the highly transmissible Omicron variant.

Epidemiologists told state media that containing the Omicron variant in Tianjin, considered a “gateway” to Beijing will be the “first real” battle against the variant on the mainland.

With less than a month left for the Winter Olympics, the discovery of a potential Omicron cluster near Beijing would have sent alarm bells ringing in the capital, some 130km away from Tianjin.

The source of the cluster outbreak remains unknown and there’s a possibility of a spillover, they said.

The Tianjin municipal government said the two cases were not linked with the imported Omicron case detected last December in the city. “Among the 20 infected people, 15 are children aged between 8 and 13. The cases are concentrated in Tianjin’s Jinnan and Nankai districts,” the tabloid, Global Times reported.

The other infections are mainly students and their family members related to a daycare centre and a primary school. “The Tianjin outbreak poses risks to Beijing and the upcoming Winter Olympics, because of the large number of commuters working and living in the two cities,” the report said, citing an unnamed immunologist.

Tianjin residents have been advised to remain home to be available for the mandatory nucleic acid testing.

100k march in France against vaccine rules

A mandatory order would not be the most efficient way to encourage those not vaccinated against Covid-19 to get the shot and that plans to toughen health pass conditions were already yielding results, French government spokesman Gabriel Attal said on Sunday.

People in France already have to show either proof of vaccination or a negative test to enter restaurants and bars and use inter-regional trains. But with Omicron infections surging, parliament is debating legislation that will drop the test option.

More than 100,000 people across France protested on Saturday over what they say are government plans to further restrict the rights of the unvaccinated, days after French President Emmanuel Macron vowed to “piss off” those refusing the jab. Meanwhile, several thousand protesters marched in Brussels in Belgium on Sunday to oppose anti-coronavirus regulations, as European governments mull tighter rules in the face of the Omicron wave.

Sigrid Kaag, who is set to become the first female finance minister of the Netherlands, said she has tested positive for the coronavirus, a day before the official swearing in ceremony on Monday.

A Cypriot scientist defended his assertion that a new strain of Covid-19 exists that combines characteristics of the Delta and Omicron variants. Other scientists have speculated that Leonidos Kostrikis’ findings are a result of laboratory contamination. But he told Bloomberg in an emailed statement that the cases he has identified “indicate an evolutionary pressure to an ancestral strain to acquire these mutations and not a result of a single recombination event”.

Australian state marks its highest death count

Australia’s most populous state, New South Wales, recorded its highest number of daily deaths on Saturday. The home to Sydney and a third of Australia’s 25mn people reported 16 deaths from the coronavirus in the previous day.

UK minister supports reduced isolation period

Reducing the self-isolation period for people who test positive from seven days to five would help British employers that have been hard hit by absences, education minister Nadhim Zahawi said on Sunday

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  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR

    Sutirtho Patranobis has been in Beijing since 2012, as Hindustan Times’ China correspondent. He was previously posted in Colombo, Sri Lanka, where he covered the final phase of the civil war and its aftermath. Patranobis covered several beats including health and national politics in Delhi before being posted abroad.

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