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BEIJING (Reuters) – More cities in central China resorted to tough curbs as new coronavirus infections in Henan province rose sharply, with authorities taking urgent action to contain clusters ahead of the Winter Olympics and Lunar New Year peak travel season.
Although the numbers are tiny compared with many places in the world, and no cases of the highly transmissible Omicron variant have been reported so far in Henan, several cities there imposed new limits on travel or economic activities in response to a rash of new cases.
China’s national policy of stamping out clusters quickly as they appear has taken on extra urgency in the run up to the Winter Games, being hosted by Beijing and nearby Hebei starting Feb. 4, and concerns over the potential for spreading the virus during coming weeks, when masses of people will travel for the Lunar New Year holiday.
Gushi, a county in Henan of 1 million residents, reported one symptomatic case and one asymptomatic carrier for Wednesday. But that was enough to persuade local officials to stop people from leaving town and dissuade others from coming.
The city of Xuchang required local officials to minimise movement of people as mass testing on its more than 4 million residents was being rolled out between Thursday and Friday.
In Yuzhou city, part of Xuchang’s conurbation, 1 million residents are already under lockdown, with people in some areas unable to leave their homes. In other areas, each household can only send out one person every two days to shop for daily necessities.
Luoyang, a city of 7 million, has closed various entertainment venues, including cinemas. Shangqiu, with nearly 8 million residents, has suspended in-person classes at all primary and middle schools.
Although no local infections were reported on Wednesday in Yongji, a city in the northern province of Shanxi, authorities there ordered all its 400,000 residents to remain indoors and businesses and schools to suspend activities on Thursday, after samples taken from a train station turnstile tested positive for the virus.
The northwestern city of Xian, more than two weeks into a lockdown, reported 63 local symptomatic infections for Wednesday, up from 35 a day earlier but still much lower than the daily case count seen in the last week of December.
All international flights in the Xian Xianyang International Airport were halted from Wednesday, the official Xinhua news agency reported on Thursday. Domestic flights were suspended earlier.
Eastern Zhejiang province detected five local symptomatic cases for Wednesday.
Mainland China had 103,121 confirmed symptomatic cases as of Jan. 5, including both local and imported ones, with a death toll of 4,636.
(Reporting by Ryan Woo, Roxanne Liu, Gabriel Crossley and Ella Cao; Editing by Christian Schmollinger & Simon Cameron-Moore)