Omicron has breached the political, financial and technology centers of China for the first time, putting pressure on the country’s response to the more transmissible variant as it awaits the Winter Olympics starting in less than three weeks.
China has detected locally-transmitted omicron infections in the capital Beijing, the financial center Shanghai, and Guangdong, where the southern technology center of Shenzhen is located, which together account for one-fifth of the country’s gross domestic product. The highly mutated strain has been detected in one out of every five provinces, while 14 of them have reported imported cases.
While still very small in number, the flareups are causing consternation because of their timing, in addition to their location. The Lunar New Year holiday, an event marked by mass travel as millions return home from urban centers to attend large family gatherings, begins in two weeks on February 1.
At least 166 domestic cases were found across China on Sunday, according to the National Health Commission. The latest epicenter, in the northern city of Tianjin, reported a record high of 80 new daily cases.