Chinese vice-premier calls for tougher action in Henan’s Omicron and Delta coronavirus hotspots

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  • Sun Chunlan
    Politburo member of the Communist Party of China

Strict prevention and control measures are needed in Henan as it battles the twin threats of the Omicron and Delta coronavirus variants, Chinese Vice-Premier Sun Chunlan said on Tuesday, capping a trip to the central province.

Sun said the Omicron strain spread quickly and was highly infectious, putting containment measures in Anyang, now the centre of the province’s main outbreak, to the test, state news agency Xinhua reported.

“It is necessary to further improve the efficiency of nucleic acid testing and investigations, adopt strict social control measures, block transmission routes as soon as possible, and strictly prevent the spread of the epidemic,” Sun was quoted as saying.

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Henan reported 118 new local symptomatic cases on Wednesday, up from 87 the day before, according to the National Health Commission.

Of those reported on Wednesday, 65 were in Anyang, where the province’s first Omicron case was detected. Meanwhile Xuchang, previously the centre of the province’s outbreak, reported 41 new cases on Wednesday, down from 74 on Tuesday.

With the Lunar New Year less than three weeks away, cities in Henan have taken a series of measures to prevent further spread of the disease, including limits on return trips home.

Authorities in Anyang asked people from the city working in other centres not to return home “unless necessary” during the holiday.

Anyang’s 5 million residents have been banned from leaving their homes except to get a Covid-19 test since the first Omicron case was diagnosed on Monday.

The patient was a university student who arrived from Tianjin on December 28. Anyang’s health bureau said genome sequencing showed that two of the city’s cases involved the Omicron variant but it was not known how many others were related to the strain.

And on Wednesday, Anyang-administered Hua county banned its residents from entering residential compounds other than where they lived.

Eleven Anyang officials were punished for poor performance combating the outbreak, including at least two who have been suspended.

Authorities in Changyuan, also in Henan, said that anyone returning to the city “without permission from relevant departments” would be put under centralised quarantine at their own expense and could be prosecuted.

Provincial capital Zhengzhou reported 12 new cases on Wednesday, up from 11 the day before.

Authorities said on Tuesday that with the exception of various closed and controlled areas, the city had reached “zero social transmission” in three rounds of citywide screening, meaning that all new confirmed cases had been isolated and linked to previously recorded cases.

In her comments on Tuesday, Sun said the situation in Zhengzhou had stabilised but the risk of community transmission had not been completely eliminated in Yuzhou – within Xuchang – where 1 million residents have been in lockdown for more than a week.

She said authorities should ensure that residents in locked-down communities had access to supplies and basic medical care, and their demands were resolved in a timely way.

It follows a flood of public complaints about food shortages and delays in medical treatment in the Shaanxi provincial capital Xian, where 13 million people have been confined to their homes.


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