Beijing reports 1st omicron case ahead of Olympics…

BEIJING (AP) — The Chinese city of Xi’an has gradually begun lifting restrictions after over three weeks of lockdown, as authorities sought to stamp out a local outbreak before the Beijing Winter Olympic Games are due to start.

State-owned broadcaster CCTV reported Sunday that certain counties and development zones in Xi’an had begun restoring production.

Officials told a news conference that lockdown measures had been either partially or completely lifted in some communities that have been designated as lower risk, allowing people to leave their homes for a limited time to purchase daily necessities.

The city went into strict lockdown on Dec. 22, following a coronavirus outbreak that officials attributed to the delta variant. Xi’an, with a population of 13 million and a major tourist site for the famed Terracotta Warriors, has reported over 2,000 infections since December last year.

Xi’an is about 1,000 kilometers (600 miles) southwest of Beijing.

China is seeking to stamp out local transmission of the omicron and delta variants with its “zero COVID” policy. Several municipalities and cities in the southern province of Guangdong as well as Beijing have in recent days reported local cases of the more contagious omicron variant.

Beijing reported its first local omicron infection on Saturday, according to state media, just before it hosts the Olympics starting on Feb. 4 and around two weeks before the start of Lunar New Year celebrations.

The infected person lives and works in the city’s northwestern district of Haidian and had no travel history outside of Beijing for the past two weeks. The individual experienced symptoms on Thursday and was tested on Friday for COVID-19, officials said in a news conference Saturday.

The patient’s residential compound and workplace have been sealed off and authorities are mass-testing people linked to either location. Some 2,430 people had been tested as of Saturday night, according to The Global Times, a state-owned newspaper.

Beijing Daily reported Sunday that the capital will require travelers to take nucleic acid tests within 72 hours of entry starting Jan. 22. Some schools in Beijing have also closed early and moved classes online ahead of the winter holidays.

The Lama Temple in Beijing, a popular tourist spot, will also be closed from Monday as part of anti-epidemic efforts, the temple said Sunday.

Officials across the country also urged residents to stay in their cities for the new year, instead of traveling back to their hometowns.

China reported 119 new cases on Saturday, of which 65 were domestic. The country has reported 104,864 infections since the beginning of the pandemic.

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This story has been corrected to remove mention of Xi’an and Shanghai among places with local omicron cases.

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