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China detects more Omicron cases as cities tighten restrictions

The Chinese city of Tianjin is testing all its residents as it tries to stamp out a coronavirus outbreak

China reported more cases of the highly transmissible Omicron coronavirus variant on Monday, with authorities on high alert over flare-ups in major cities just weeks ahead of the Beijing Winter Olympics.

The emergence of the fast-spreading variant is yet another test of China’s zero Covid strategy, with authorities already battling several outbreaks — including in Xi’an where 13 million city residents were in their third week of lockdown.

“The general public should not leave Tianjin unless essential to do so,” city officials said in a statement Sunday.

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Schools and university campuses have been closed, and trains into Beijing from Tianjin have been cancelled.

Tianjin — just 150 kilometres from Beijing — has already ordered the testing of all 14 million residents.

Footage from state broadcaster CCTV showed masked people in Tianjin’s Nankai district queueing for virus tests on Sunday from medical workers in white hazmat suits.

– Henan outbreak –

While China’s total reported cases are far lower than other virus hotspots such as the United States and Europe, there is widespread concern about the impact of Omicron.

The city on Monday reported two Omicron cases linked to the Tianjin cluster.

Before the latest cluster, China had reported just a handful of Omicron cases, all linked to imported infections.

The global event will coincide with the busy Lunar New Year holidays over which millions of people travel across the country.

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