Omicron spreads to southern China city bordering Macau, 7 cases detected

The southern Chinese city of Zhuhai suspended public bus routes on Saturday, after announcing that at least seven cases of the highly transmissible Omicron coronavirus variant had been detected there and warned residents not to leave the city.

The coastal city of Zhuhai, which borders gambling hub Macau, said Omicron was detected late on Friday in one moderately ill and six asymptomatic patients, after launching a mass trial due to a case in the neighboring city.

China is battling the coronavirus outbreak, including several from the Omicron edition, as the country increases vigil against the virus ahead of next month’s Beijing Winter Olympics.

Millions of people across the country have been ordered to stay home in recent weeks, with many domestic flights canceled and factories closed.

Zhuhai authorities have asked residents to avoid leaving the city “unless necessary”, who need to show negative COVID test results within the past 24 hours.

The city on Friday began mass testing for its population of 2.4 million people after a Covid case was detected in neighboring Zhongshan earlier in the week.

Businesses including beauty salons, card rooms, gyms and cinemas were ordered to close on Thursday, with authorities announcing the suspension of public bus routes in parts of the city.

China has kept COVID-19 cases relatively low during the pandemic with its zero-tolerance strategy of ordering mass testing and strict lockdowns immediately upon detection of infection.

But the fast-spreading Omicron variant has tested that strategy in recent weeks, appearing in the port city of Tianjin, close to Beijing, before spreading to the central city of Anyang.

National Health Commission spokesman Mi Feng told reporters on Saturday that the country faced a “double challenge” from both the Delta and Omicron strains of the virus.

He warned that areas that have not yet seen an outbreak should “not relax” their containment measures and “strengthen risk auditing”.

The country reported 104 domestically transmitted Covid-19 cases on Saturday.

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