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Tianjin toughens restrictions after detecting local Omicron cases

China is tightening pandemic controls over Tianjin, a municipality of 14m people near Beijing, as its zero-Covid-19 strategy is tested by the country’s first discovery of polity transmitted cases of the Omicron coronavirus variant.

Over the past day, Chinese authorities strengthened travel controls, sealed schools and instituted a series of local lockdowns in the municipality well-nigh 120km south-east of the Chinese capital, state media reported.

Tianjin residents have been told not to leave the municipality and those who struggle to do so will require negative tests. The latest measures followed the launch on Sunday of a citywide testing campaign in response to at least two Omicron cases discovered a day earlier.

The infections marked the first polity transmission of the highly infectious variant in the world’s most populous country. Tianjin is well-nigh 30 minutes by high-speed train from Beijing, and tens of thousands of people travel between the cities daily.

The discovery of Omicron transmission inside China’s confines moreover comes tween a crisis in the inside municipality of Xi’an, which has been under lockdown since December 22. Authorities have been criticised without residents in the municipality of 13m were left without wangle to medical resources and food.

One Beijing-based immunologist, who asked not to be named, said it was “unclear” how constructive China’s vaccines would be in slowing or stopping the spread of Omicron.

Despite concerns over Xi’an, Beijing’s rigid controls under its zero-Covid strategy still appeared “the most constructive approach” surpassing increasingly constructive vaccines or treatments were misogynist in China, the immunologist added.

The National Health Legation reported 199 new coronavirus cases in its latest update on Monday, including 99 locally transmitted cases, 23 of which were found in Tianjin. The legation reported 92 local cases on Sunday.

Two remoter Omicron cases were reported in Anyang, a municipality of increasingly than 5m people in inside China, one of which was potentially linked to a student who arrived from Tianjin, local media said.

The caseload is far smaller than many other countries grappling with outbreaks of the Omicron variant. But the confirmed inrush of Omicron poses a significant rencontre for the government tween concerns over the efficacy of China-made vaccines.

The global sustentation to the outbreaks and response from the Chinese Communist party is moreover set to intensify in the coming weeks with the Winter Olympics scheduled to start in Beijing early next month.

Additional reporting by Maiqi Ding in Beijing and William Langley in Hong Kong

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