The latest outbreak of COVID-19 prompted the Chinese government to impose a lockdown in the city of Anyang, home to 5.5 million people.

According to a city announcement of China's state media on Monday, residents are not permitted to go outside their homes, and non-essential travel is not allowed. Business establishments have also been closed except stores that are selling essential products.

Though the lockdown period is indefinite, government officials have implemented mass testing and standard health procedures, which is part of their protocols whenever a COVID-19 outbreak appears around mainland China.

Another 13 million people are locked down in the city of Xi'an and 1.1 million in Yuzhou. The virus has infected around 2,000 people in the city of Xi'an, known for being the home of manufacturers of computer chips. The latest lockdown raises the number of people confined to their homes to around 20 million, as per the Associated Press report.

Read Also: Xi'an Province Goes Into Lockdown Amid China's Zero-Covid Policy 

Omicron-Driven Outbreaks

Reports say that most in COVID-19 cases in Xi'an were mild. But the city has shut down most public services like what was done in Wuhan, the first epicenter of the pandemic in 2020. The number of hospitals that accommodate non-Covid patients is limited, According to a Wall Street Journal report.

Hong Kong has also declared the shutting down of primary schools and kindergartens following the reported infections in students. Schools will be closed until the Lunar New Year in the first week of February.

The particular administrative region of China has also heightened its travel restrictions after the outbreak of the omicron variant overseas.

Meanwhile, restrictions were imposed on the port city of Tianjin, host of the Winter Olympics next month. Beijing and Tianjin are closely linked, wherein 100,000 people travel regularly between the two cities for their jobs.

Huang Chun, an official in charge of disease control for the Winter Olympics, said that organizers expect that participation in the event might be affected by an outbreak. They depend on the athletes and officials in managing the situation.

China's zero-Covid policy is now being challenged by the highly contagious but mild omicron variant.

Beijing On High Alert For the Winter Olympics

For months, government authorities implemented strict testing and quarantine measures for international arrivals to prevent the virus from entering the mainland. They also have imposed more stringent restrictions to curb local Covid outbreaks as Beijing prepares for the Winter Olympics on February 4.

However, in December, China has recorded an imported case of omicron from an asymptomatic traveler who arrived from abroad. Since then, imported omicron cases have been detected in Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Changsha, and Zhejiang's eastern province, as per CNN.

Jin Dongyan, a virologist at the University of Hong Kong, said that it is "impossible" for China to return to zero COVID-19 cases before the start of the Winter Olympics as local outbreaks continuously appear one after another.

He advised Beijing "to learn from the the experience of the Tokyo Summer Games," wherein the event was conducted in a tightly enclosed sports bubble isolated from the local community while virus transmission was happening in Japan at that time.

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