Tianjin, a port city of 14 million people near the Chinese capital Beijing, began mass tests on Sunday after a group of 20 adults and children tested positive for Covid-19, at least two of them with the highly transmissible variant Omicron.
Epidemiologists told state media that containing the Omicron variant in Tianjin, seen as a “gateway” to Beijing, would be the “first real” battle against the variant on the mainland.
Less than a month before the Winter Olympics, the discovery of a potential Omicron cluster near Beijing would have sounded the alarm in the capital, some 130 km from Tianjin.
The source of the cluster outbreak remains unknown and there is a possibility of spillover, they said.
The Tianjin municipal government said the two cases were unrelated to the imported Omicron case detected last December in the city. “Of the 20 people infected, 15 are children between the ages of 8 and 13. The cases are concentrated in the Jinnan and Nankai districts of Tianjin, ”the Global Times tabloid reported.
The other infections are mainly students and their family members linked to a day care center and an elementary school. “The Tianjin epidemic poses risks for Beijing and the upcoming Winter Olympics, due to the large number of commuters working and living in the two cities,” the report said, citing an anonymous immunologist.
Residents of Tianjin have been urged to stay at home to be available for mandatory nucleic acid testing.
100,000 marches in France against the vaccine rules
A mandatory prescription would not be the most effective way to encourage people not vaccinated against Covid-19 to get vaccinated and plans to tighten conditions on health passes were already bearing fruit, said on Sunday French government spokesperson Gabriel Attal.
The French must already present either proof of vaccination or a negative test to enter restaurants and bars and use interregional trains. But with Omicron infections soaring, Parliament is debating legislation that will abandon the option of testing.
More than 100,000 people across France demonstrated on Saturday against what they say are government plans to further restrict the rights of unvaccinated people, days after French President Emmanuel Macron vowed to “piss off” those who refuse the vaccine. Meanwhile, several thousand protesters marched in Brussels, Belgium on Sunday to oppose anti-coronavirus regulations, as European governments draw up stricter rules in the face of the Omicron wave.
Sigrid Kaag, who is expected to become the Netherlands’ first female finance minister, said she tested positive for the coronavirus a day before the official swearing-in ceremony on Monday.
A Cypriot scientist defended his claim that there is a new strain of Covid-19 that combines characteristics of the Delta and Omicron variants. Other scientists have speculated that Leonidos Kostrikis’s findings are the result of laboratory contamination. But he told Bloomberg in an emailed statement that the cases he identified “indicate evolutionary pressure on an ancestral strain to acquire these mutations and not the result of a single recombination event.”
Australian state records highest death toll
Australia’s most populous state, New South Wales, recorded its highest number of daily deaths on Saturday. The Sydney home and a third of Australia’s 25 million people reported 16 deaths from the coronavirus the day before.
British minister supports reduction of isolation period
Reducing the period of self-isolation for people who test positive from seven to five days would help UK employers hard hit by absences, Education Minister Nadhim Zahawi said on Sunday.