By John Ikani
As the world continues to battle the scourge of Covid-19 pandemic, China has locked down residents of Anyang city, the third of such move raising the number confined to their homes because of Covid outbreak to about 20 million people.
It wasn’t clear how long the lockdown of Anyang city, home to 5.5 million, would last as a notice said it was being done to facilitate mass testing, but did not indicate if it would end when the testing is completed.
The lockdown of Anyang followed the confirmation of two cases of omicron on Monday that are believed to be linked to two other cases found Saturday in the city of Tianjin. It appears to be the first time omicron has spread in China beyond people who arrived from abroad and their immediate contacts.
Residents are not allowed to go out and stores have been ordered shut except those selling necessities.
Earlier, 13 million people have been locked down in Xi’an for nearly three weeks, and 1.1 million more in Yuzhou for more than a week.
Xi’an and Yuzhou are both battling the delta variant and neither has reported any omicron cases. About 2,000 people have been infected in Xi’an, an ancient capital that is home to the Terracotta Warrior ruins, in what is by far the largest outbreak in China.
The lockdowns are the broadest since the shutting down of Wuhan and most of the rest of Hubei province in early 2020 at the start of the pandemic. Since then, China’s approach has evolved into one of targeting smaller areas hit by outbreaks for lockdowns.
The approach of the Winter Olympics, which opens Feb. 4 in Beijing, and the emergence of omicron have brought back citywide lockdowns in a bid to snuff out outbreaks and prevent them from spreading to other parts of China.
A Beijing Olympics official responsible for disease control, Huang Chun, said organizers are counting on the cooperation of athletes and officials to prevent an outbreak that could affect participation.
“If the mass cluster transmission happens, it will impact the Games and the schedule for sure,” Huang said. “The worst scenario, if it happens, is independent of man’s will, so we leave our options open.”