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Tianjin, a city of 14 million near Beijing, starts testing all residents after Omicron surfaces.

Officials in the northern Chinese port city of Tianjin near Beijing said on Sunday that its total population of 14 million would be tested for the coronavirus after it was found in 20 residents, at least two of whom were infected with the fast-growing Omicron variant.

The city also announced a series of restrictions in an attempt to contain the outbreak and trace its source. The first infections were confirmed on Saturday, in a 10-year-old girl and a 29-year-old woman who works in an after-school center. Research and testing later today led to 18 more positive tests among their contacts, including 15 students.

Tianjin is about 110 kilometers from Beijing, so the flurry of cases is particularly worrying for Chinese leaders, with the capital preparing to host the Winter Olympics in less than a month.

Li Hongzhong, Communist Party secretary in Tianjin, pledged city to “fully fulfill” its role of “moat” protecting Beijing, official says news organizations reported.

“The city’s pandemic prevention is at a crucial time”, Mr. Li told officials, according to the state-run Tianjin Daily. “Tracing the source of the epidemic must be the most urgent and important task. “

City-wide testing is nothing new in China. But even with the country’s enormous resources for testing residents and tracking their movements, containing the outbreak in Tianjin might not be easy.

Zhang Ying, deputy director of the Tianjin Disease Control and Prevention Center, said at a press conference that the virus may have “spread in the community for some time already” before it was detected. Neither the 29-year-old woman nor the 10-year-old girl who tested positive had recently left Tianjin.

Government experts also said that the Omicron strain found in the two residents of Tianjin may not be the same as that found in recent international arrivals in the city.

Many Chinese are proud that their country, since the crackdown on the world’s first virus outbreak in Wuhan, has avoided the waves of infections that have swept most of the world. But the authoritarian state’s strict controls, which have kept China largely shut, have not been able to completely prevent the virus from entering, and Omicron’s extreme contagiousness could present a new level. danger.

Authorities in Tianjin have ordered residents to limit their movement and not to leave the city unless absolutely necessary. They also put around thirty residential neighborhoods under full interlocks and close some metro stations.

But officials also appeared to be trying to reassure residents that Tianjin would not repeat the missteps of Xi’an, a city of 13 million people in northwest China. Xi’an has seen a rise in public anger after a precipitous lockdown resulted in food shortages and the denial of medical treatment to some people, including at least one pregnant woman who miscarrye after being refused entry to a hospital.

Mr. Li, the party leader from Tianjin, told local authorities to make sure residents receive their daily needs, including medical care.

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