Could Omicron outbreak in Tianjin mean the games are off in Beijing?
Just weeks before the Winter Olympics, China’s Covid Zero goal seems unlikely
Omicron arrived in a port city that borders Beijing and spread inland before Chinese officials detected it, seeding the highly contagious variant on the doorstep of the nation’s capital less than a month before the winter Olympics begin.
There have been 21 new locally confirmed Covid-19 infections in the city of Tianjin, after two Omicron cases were found on Saturday, leading to closed schools, halted travel and mass testing at the weekend. The steps came too late for the nearby province of Henan, itself the epicentre of a Delta outbreak, after a student believed to be infected with Omicron returned from Tianjin with the more mutated pathogen. Two cases have now been detected in Henan.
The arrival of Omicron bodes ill for China, where increasingly strict measures to eliminate the virus have failed to stamp out the less transmissible Delta. Previously isolated outbreaks are bleeding into one another, preventing the world’s most populous country from reverting to the vaunted “Covid Zero” status it maintained for much of the pandemic. The goal seems even less likely now with Omicron, which has caused infections worldwide to surge to unprecedented levels within weeks...