People line up in snow for Covid-19 testing amid outbreak in northern China border city
Manzhouli, the city on the border with Russia at the epicentre of the current outbreak, accounted for 58 of Inner Mongolia’s new cases on Friday and has started its seventh round of mass testing.
Beijing’s most recent infection, a locally transmitted case reported on Thursday, can also be traced back to the Inner Mongolia cluster.
Following the emergence of the potentially more infectious Omicron variant, leading Chinese experts said last week that the country has no plans to further tighten its border restrictions because it already has strict measures in place, including testing and mandatory quarantine.
China has yet to detect the Omicron variant, but the authorities are scrambling to keep the situation under control as the country prepares for the Beijing Winter Olympics in February.
Controls on travel into the capital city have already been tightened. Entry is only allowed to those who have taken a Covid test within the previous 48 hours and have no history of travel to the city where the recent new cases have occurred.
Beijing municipal government spokesman Xu Hejian told a press conference Friday that the city will strengthen its checkpoints at railways, airports and other entry points.
Zhao Weidong, a member of the Olympic organising committee, said: “We are paying close attention to the relevant situation of the mutant virus strain Omicron, and are continuing to observe and evaluate its potential impact on the Beijing Winter Olympics.
“During the Beijing Winter Olympics and Paralympics, a series of comprehensive prevention and control measures will be carried out to minimise the risk of transmission from outside mainland China and in order to effectively protect the health of all participants and Beijing residents.”
China is one of a few countries still sticking to the Zero Tolerance policy, which aims to wipe out the virus completely.
However this approach has grown increasingly costly and difficult as the rest of the world had started to adapt in an attempt to live with the virus.