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Beijing reports first Omicron case ahead of Winter Olympics

By Adam Schrader
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Beijing reports first Omicron case ahead of Winter Olympics
A man walks past the headquarters of the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics in December. Officials in Beijing said Saturday that the Chinese capital has recorded its first case of the Omicron variant ahead of the Lunar New Year and the opening of the Winter Olympics. Photo by Roman Pilipey/EPA-EFE

Jan. 15 (UPI) -- Officials in Beijing said Saturday that the Chinese capital has recorded its first case of the Omicron variant of COVID-19 ahead of the Lunar New Year and the opening of the Winter Olympics.

Pang Xinghuo, deputy director of the Beijing Municipal Center for Disease Prevention and Control, said during a press conference Saturday that officials had locked down the infected person's workplace at the Haidian New Technology Building and residential compound in Beijing's Haidian District, a technology hub in the western part of the city.

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Officials said the infected man first presented with a sore throat Thursday before experiencing fatigue Friday. He tested positive for COVID-19 twice and has since been transferred to a hospital for isolation and treatment, according to China News Service, a state-run news agency.

Officials have sent teams to contact trace possible exposure among people who might have had contact with the infected man.

Pang said China is facing "dual risks at home and abroad" from coronavirus and that it would be necessary to strictly implement the country's prevention and control strategy.

"Your active cooperation will help the capital. Epidemic prevention and control work is extremely important," Pang said.

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He Qinghua, an official with the National Health Commission, said China is now facing challenges mainly from imported cases and a domestic travel rush in the upcoming holiday season for the Lunar New Year.

He said the Chinese mainland reported 104 new locally transmitted COVID-19 cases on Friday. There were 52 cases in Henan, 39 in Tianjin, eight in Guangdong, four in Shaanxi and one in Zhejiang.

Tianjin, a port city about 30 minutes from Beijing, increased its measures to contain a resurgence of COVID-19, state media reported. It was not immediately clear what measures Tianjin would take.

In recent weeks, Chinese officials have restricted travel to Beijing from areas of the country affected by the virus and suspended international and domestic flights to the city.

Despite the detection of the Omicron variant in Beijing, the Chinese government has worked to assure residents and visitors that the resurgence of COVID-19 in China has "stabilized," according to the Xinhua News Agency, another major state media service.

Anthony Edgar, former head of media operations for theInternational Olympic Committee who serves as a consultant for the Winter Olympics in Beijing, highlighted China's preparation for the events in comments to state media agencies.

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"When China put forward the 2008 bid, China spoke about leaving a legacy. Now you can see how that legacy is progressing," Edgar said. "You've run one of the best Olympic Games ever. You know how to do it."

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