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China detects the first case of the Omicron coronavirus variant on the mainland

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Health authorities in the northern port city of Tianjin were able to identify and isolate the carrier from the variant: a passenger who arrived from abroad on December 9, before entering the community, state media reported on Monday. .

The infected person was initially identified as an asymptomatic carrier. Subsequent genome sequencing reviewed by the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed that it was the Omicron variant, according to state media.

The individual is now being treated in isolation at the hospital, according to the report, without providing further details.

The rapidly spreading Omicron variant has raised alarms around the world, prompting governments to impose travel restrictions. It has been reported in more than 50 countries since it was first detected in South Africa late last month.

Much is still unknown about the variant, which involves an unusually large number of mutations that scientists worry could make it more transmissible and less susceptible to existing vaccines.

Chinese public health experts and state media have done so before confidence expressed in the country’s ability to cope with the new variant, citing China’s strict border control measures and its ability to quickly identify and isolate infected cases and their close contacts.

In China, all arrivals abroad must be tested for Covid before leaving the airport, followed by at least two weeks of centralized quarantine. It is often followed by another long period of home isolation.

The newly identified infected traveler had been in “closed loop management” for arrivals abroad upon entering China, according to state media, meaning they had not directly exposed local residents to the variant.

But China’s ambitious zero-tolerance strategy, consisting of massive tests, rapid blockades and extensive quarantines, also entails high economic costs and no disruption to daily life.

As the Winter Olympics approach, authorities are taking increasingly stringent measures to curb local outbreaks, which have continued to increase with increasing frequency. The country has now reported cases of local transmission every day for the past eight weeks.

On Tuesday, the eastern province of Zhejiang, home to the country’s leading manufacturing and export centers, reported 44 new cases, bringing the total case load last week to over 200.

Authorities in the areas affected by the virus quickly quarantined tens of thousands of residents, suspended businesses, events and tourist groups, and canceled flights, ferries and bus services.

Travel restrictions on medium- and high-risk areas will be in place until March 15 next year, long after the end of the Winter Olympics and the completion of the country’s annual legislative meetings in Beijing.

Keeping infections away from the Chinese capital is a top priority for the government as the city prepares for the February Games. All flights have been canceled from the city of Ningbo, a major industrial center in Beijing, while only one daily flight is allowed from Hangzhou, the provincial capital, to Beijing.

Infections are also being reported in other parts of the country. In the north, Inner Mongolia reported 5 symptomatic cases and 4 asymptomatic infections, while Heilongjiang and Shaanxi provinces each reported a confirmed case, according to the National Health Commission.

In the southern province of Guangdong, two people at the Dongguan manufacturing center tested positive on Monday, prompting a local blockade.

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