The Malta Independent 17 May 2022, Tuesday

Live Covid updates: Beijing reports first local omicron case ahead of Olympics

Associated Press Sunday, 16 January 2022, 07:32 Last update: about 5 months ago

HONG KONG (AP) — Beijing has reported its first local omicron infection, according to state media, weeks before the Winter Olympic Games are due to start.

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 during which they confirmed the infection.


The infection comes less than three weeks before the Winter Olympic Games’ opening ceremony on Feb 4., and around two weeks before the start of Lunar New Year celebrations in China.

So far, multiple cities in China have reported omicron infections, including Shanghai, the western city of Xi’an, cities in southern Guangdong province such as Zhuhai and Zhongshan, and the city of Tianjin, which is 30 minutes from Beijing by high-speed rail.

Officials across the country have urged residents to stay in their cities for the new year, instead of traveling back to their hometowns. China has adopted a strict “zero-Covid” policy, with authorities locking down residential compounds and even entire cities such as Xi’an when a local outbreak has been discovered in an effort to stamp out community transmission.

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

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


TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — Iranian state television said Saturday that three Iranian citizens have died after they were infected with omicron, the new, more easily spread variant of the coronavirus.

Iran first detected the omicron variant in mid-December but this was the first time fatalities were reported. The TV report quoted Mohammad Hashemi, an official in the country’s health ministry, as also saying that a fourth person who was a confirmed case of omicron was in critical condition. He did not elaborate.

Since the outbreak of the pandemic, COVID-19 has killed more than 132,000 people in Iran, the worst fatality rate in the Middle East. On Aug. 24 alone, 709 people died of the illness. The number of deaths has decreased in recent months due to the vaccination, experts say.

Iran has stepped up vaccinations in recent weeks and now has reported that more than 53 million Iranians have received their second shot, and 12 million have received the third shot or booster. Iran has a population of about 85 million. When hard-line President Ebrahin Raisi took over in late August, only 7 million Iranians had been vaccinated.

Iran mostly uses the China-made Sinopharm vaccine, though the Russian Sputnik-V and the vaccine made by the British-Swedish pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca are also in use.

The omicron variant has already become dominant in many countries. Though it can infect those who have been vaccinated or had previously been infected by prior versions of the virus, early studies show it is less likely to cause severe illness than the previous delta variant. Vaccination and a booster still offer strong protection from serious illness, hospitalization and death.



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