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Illustration by Security Management

China Races to Contain COVID-19 Outbreak in Tianjin

The city of Tianjin, China, is in a race to test all 14 million of its residents within 48 hours after a small cluster of COVID-19 cases was discovered.

Of the 20 cases found in the port city, two are the highly transmissible Omicron variant, the BBC reported. Officials said that the virus had been circulating, so they expect case numbers to grow. After the first rounds of testing, an additional 21 cases have been detected, according to The Hindustan Times.

Tianjin residents have been told to stay home until they are tested, and they would need to present a negative COVID test result to get a health pass needed to use public transportation, according to the BBC.

China is aiming for a zero-COVID policy, responding to small numbers of local cases with mass testing and community lockdowns. The country is hustling to contain the Tianjin outbreak in particular because of its proximity to Beijing (just 70 miles or 115 km away) and the upcoming Lunar New Year holidays and the Winter Olympics, which will start on 4 February.

While Tianjin’s central location has sparked concern, the city’s COVID-19 measures are still several steps lighter than in cities Xi’an and Yuzhou—further away from Beijing but with larger outbreaks, both traced primarily to the Delta variant, ABC News reported. In both cities, millions of people have been confined to their homes. Xi’an has been under tight lockdown measures and undergoing mass testing since late December 2021, according to CNN. Schools, public venues, and transportation were closed, and residents were banned from leaving home except for urgent reasons.

In Tianjin, residents have been ordered to limit travel and not leave the city unless absolutely necessary, but only select residential areas are under full lockdowns—not the whole city, the New York Times reported. Schools and university campuses have been closed, and Beijing-bound trains have been canceled. Road checkpoints have been set up to check vehicles before they are permitted to enter Beijing.