Tighter pandemic controls imposed ahead of Olympics

More cities and areas in Henan have resorted to tough curbs as the central province reported 64 new locally-transmitted coronavirus infections, 50 of them in Xuchang. Nine asymptomatic carriers were also identified, most of them in the provincial capital Zhengzhou.

Although the numbers are small 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 February 4, and concerns over the potential for spreading the virus during coming weeks, when millions of people will travel for the Lunar New Year holiday.

Gushi, a county in Henan of one 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 four million residents was being rolled out between Thursday and Friday.

In Yuzhou city, part of Xuchang's conurbation, a 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.

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Luoyang, a city of seven million, has closed various entertainment venues, including cinemas. Shangqiu, with nearly eight 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, after samples taken from a train station turnstile tested positive for the virus.

The northwestern city of Xi'an, 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.(Reuters)

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