China has reported 206 new COVID-19 cases, including 158 domestically transmitted ones, in a sudden spike ahead of the Beijing Winter Olympics which will be held in February next year, the country's health commission said on Sunday. Of the new local cases of coronavirus, 157 were reported in Shaanxi and one in Guangxi provinces, besides 48 imported cases, the National Health Commission (NHC) said.
The spike in cases ahead of the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics has sparked concerns in the country as officials scampered to arrest the spread. Though China has controlled the contagion by drastically limiting international travel, sporadic clusters of cases continued to surface in different parts of the country, putting its "Zero case" policy under stress. Chinese officials reported a case of Omicron on December 13 in Tianjin city followed by a few more cases.
However, there is not much information about its spread in the country. The health officials also reported an outbreak of Delta strain sub-lineage AY.4 in Zhejiang province in the middle of the month which was reportedly brought under control. There were 2,011 active cases in China as of Saturday, with nine in critical conditions, the commission said. Facing dual COVID-19 risks from a domestic flare-up and the raging Omicron variant overseas, Beijing on Friday tightened epidemic prevention and control measures, and vowed to strictly adhere to a dynamic zero policy as the Chinese New Year and the Beijing Winter Olympics approach, official daily Global Times reported.
Xu Hejian, a spokesperson from the Beijing government, said at Friday's media briefing that Beijing had revised its COVID-19 prevention and control measures, calling on residents to spend the upcoming holidays - New Year's Day and Spring Festival - in Beijing. The new measures apply to cases of locally transmitted infections in Beijing, residents in the district where reported cases are not allowed to leave the capital other than for essential reasons, and residents in the city's townships where reported cases are restricted from leaving Beijing, Xu said.
The Beijing government encourages companies to adopt flexible work hours and help employees avoid leaving or entering Beijing during peak periods. Anyone returning to Beijing is required to present a negative nucleic acid testing result issued within 48 hours and a green health code, he said. The total number of cases on the Chinese mainland stood at 101,077 since the virus broke out in Wuhan in 2019 with the death toll unchanged at 4,636. The Beijing Winter Olympics, the 24th edition of the showpiece that started way back in 1924, will be held from February 4 to 20.