Beijing reports first local case of omicron

BEIJING (Reuters) – The Chinese capital, Beijing, reported on Saturday its first locally transmitted infection of the highly transmissible variant of the omicron coronavirus, according to state media, just a few weeks before the Winter Olympics.

State television reported on Saturday that the new infection had been identified as the omicron strain.

Laboratory tests found “specific mutations of the omicron variant” in the person, Pang Xinghuo, an official with the city’s disease control authority, told a news conference.

Authorities sealed off the infected person’s residential compound and workplace and collected 2,430 samples for testing from people linked to the two places, a Haidian district official said.

The detection of the omicron variant in Beijing came as cities across the country increased viral surveillance before the Winter Olympics, which begin on February 4.

Apart from Beijing, China has reported locally transmitted infections of the omicron variant in at least four other provinces and municipalities: in the northern city of Tianjin, the central province of Henan, the southern province of Guangdong, and the northeastern province of Liaoning. However, the total number of cases per omicron remains unclear.

He Qinghua, an official with the National Health Commission (NHC), said at a briefing on Saturday that the omicron variant was also detected in Shanghai, without specifying the number of cases. It did not say whether the variant had been found locally or among travelers from abroad.

He noted that 14 provincial areas in China had detected the omicron variant in infected people arriving from abroad, without naming the regions.

In a statement on Saturday, the NHC reported 165 new confirmed cases of coronavirus for January 14, up from 201 the day before. There were no new deaths, leaving the death toll at 4,636. As of January 14, mainland China had 104,745 confirmed cases.

Beijing Correspondent Report and Andrew Galbraith in Shanghai, Edited in Spanish by Manuel Farías.

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