Beijing authorities conduct mass Covid testing as cases rise before Olympics

Beijing’s city government has introduced new measures to contain a recent outbreak of Covid-19, as China’s capital continued to report new local cases of the virus less than two weeks before it hosts the Winter Olympic Games.

Nine locally transmitted cases were found in Beijing on 22 January, the National Health Commission (NHC) said on Sunday, of which six were in the city’s Fengtai district.

Fengtai will organise nucleic acid tests for Covid for all its residents on Sunday, district health authorities said.

Authorities have asked residents of “risky areas”, including a neighbourhood of Fengtai, not to leave the city, a local government spokesman said at a Sunday news conference, adding that Fengtai residents had been asked to avoid mass gatherings.

Beijing city has also asked residents to get nucleic acid tests if they find themselves with Covid-like symptoms within 14 days of receiving any deliveries from overseas, local authorities said in a statement on Saturday.

Authorities have suggested Beijing’s first case of the Omicron variant could have arrived via a package from Canada.

In Fengtai, some nurseries have told parents that children who have not been vaccinated against Covid will not be able to attend, two parents told Reuters.

Reuters could not determine whether the requirement is a government regulation or the nurseries’ own rules.

A mother surnamed Wang, whose child attends a private nursery in Fengtai, said a teacher told her on Friday that unvaccinated children would not be allowed to return from Monday, citing new government regulations but without providing Wang with any official documents.

“This is not on a voluntary basis. This is coercion,” Wang told Reuters. She said she had filed a complaint with authorities in the hope of having the requirement removed.

Reuters could not reach local authorities for comment on a non-business day.

Mainland China reported 56 new Covid cases on 22 January, down from 63 a day earlier, the NHC said. Of the new cases, 19 were locally transmitted, versus 23 a day earlier. The number of new asymptomatic cases, which China does not classify as confirmed cases, fell to 34 from 43.

There were no new fatalities, leaving the death toll at 4,636. By 22 January, mainland China had confirmed 105,603 cases.

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