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Tianjin launches new round of tests

BEIJING (CNA) – The Chinese city of Tianjin started a new round of testing of its 14 million residents yesterday to block the Omicron variant, as financial analysts warned of the growing economic costs on China of curbs to extinguish clusters of infections.

China, which has stuck to what is effectively a “zero-COVID” policy, is scrambling to prevent the spread of the highly infectious Omicron variant ahead of the Chinese New Year holiday next month and as Beijing prepares to stage the Winter Olympics from February 4.

Japanese automaker Toyota said operations at its joint-venture factory in Tianjin had been halted since Monday due to the impact of mandatory coronavirus testing of Tianjin residents on its suppliers.

Tianjin, about 100 kilometres southeast of Beijing, reported 33 domestically transmitted coronavirus infections with confirmed symptoms for Tuesday, up from 10 the day before, national data showed. The city ordered a half-day off for employees at companies and other institutions yesterday and required them to keep activities “relatively static” to comply with the city’s second round of mass testing, the local government said in a statement.

In the central province of Henan, the city of Anyang, where Omicron has also been detected in the community, reported 65 local symptomatic cases on Tuesday, a surge from just two a day earlier.

Residents line up for a second round of COVID-19 testing in northern China’s Tianjin Municipality. PHOTO: AP

Vice Premier Sun Chunlan visited Henan and said Omicron presented a challenge to the city’s virus control efforts.

Officials should “further increase the efficiency of testing and epidemiological investigation and adopt strict community-level control measures”, the official Xinhua news agency quoted her as saying in a report on Tuesday.

Case numbers in Tianjin and Anyang are tiny compared with outbreaks in many other countries, with the total number of Omicron infections unclear. Tianjin made it harder for people to leave town, while Anyang ordered residents to remain indoor during mass testing, unless for essential jobs or for their tests.

Including infections in Tianjin and Anyang, mainland China reported a total of 166 local symptomatic cases for Tuesday, more than 110 a day earlier.

There were no new deaths, leaving the death toll at 4,636. As of January 11, mainland China had 104,189 confirmed symptomatic cases, including both local ones and those arriving from overseas.