Omicron, Delta pose dual threat to Beijing

The flareup has also dulled the outlook for the Olympics that are due to start February 4 and were seen as an opportunity to showcase China’s economy and governance
A woman walks past the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympic logo at an installation featuring National Speed Skating Oval, in Beijing, China. (REUTERS)
A woman walks past the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympic logo at an installation featuring National Speed Skating Oval, in Beijing, China. (REUTERS)
Published on Jan 18, 2022 09:39 PM IST
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BySutirtho Patranobis

The Chinese capital Beijing on Tuesday reported two more Covid-19 cases of both the Omicron and Delta variants, taking the total to three, as the government said city officials must “operate under the state of emergency” during the three weeks remaining before the Winter Olympic Games begin.

Health authorities have urged citizens not to order goods from overseas after the first case of Omicron infection in Beijing was linked to an international parcel from Canada.That patient has passed the virus to at least two close contacts.

Separately, a person in a different part of the capital tested positive for the Delta variant, city spokesperson Xu Hejian said at a briefing on Tuesday.

In the face of the twin challenges of preventing the coronavirus from entering the country and stemming its domestic resurgence, government bodies of all levels in Beijing must operate under the “state of emergency and beef up measures to curb the spread of Covid-19 in the capital during Beijing 2022”, Xu said earlier.

Following the three cases, several Chinese schools in Beijing - a city of nearly 22 million people - were ordered shut ahead of their Lunar New Year holidays while most international schools will move online from Wednesday

Health authorities said parcels from abroad could be potentially contaminated with the virus, a new warning issued days ahead of the Winter Olympics scheduled to begin from February 4 in Beijing and neighbouring Hebei province.

Residents are being urged to wear masks and gloves when opening parcels from abroad.

The US’ Centres for Disease Control and Prevention said last year that the relative risk of coronavirus infections through contact with contaminated surfaces or objects is considered low.

Samples taken from the package and some documents inside the mail and handled by the first patient tested positive for the virus.

Beijing health authorities said the findings mean they cannot rule out the possibility of the person getting infected through overseas parcels.

“Virologists warned of the high risk of packages from overseas causing domestic Covid-19 flare-ups, when the epidemic overseas is running high, as contaminated packages from epidemic-rampant countries may spread the virus to people with weak immunity through viral particles floating in the air, or people without proper protective gear,” the state-run Global Times reported.

The report added that a patient from Shenzhen in southern China, confirmed to be infected with Omicron on Sunday, is likely to have contracted it after being exposed to contaminated goods from overseas.

The Chinese mainland on Monday reported 127 new locally transmitted Covid-19 cases, the NHC said in its daily report on Tuesday.

Of the new local cases, 102 were reported in Henan, 18 in Tianjin, five in Guangdong, and one each in Beijing and Shaanxi, the commission said.

The total number of confirmed Covid-19 cases on the mainland had reached 105,258 by Monday while the death toll stood 4,636.

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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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