Tianjin is now the third city under lockdown in China amid an outbreak of COVID-19 cases. At least 40 cases have been reported in the city so far with some being identified as the Omicron variant.
The port city of Tianjin, home to 14 million people, was put on a partial lockdown after 20 children and adults previously tested positive for COVID-19 with at least two confirmed as the Omicron variant.
The first two reported cases in the region were the Omicron variant. A 10-year-old girl and a 29-year-old woman tested positive after they were both at an after-school center. Authorities tracked down and tested those who were in close contact with the two and on Saturday night and 18 others tested positive.
After the increase in COVID-19 cases, the city started mass testing its residents on Sunday and found another 20 people who tested positive, bringing the total number of cases to 40.
China has a strict zero-tolerance policy for COVID-19. The country has been stepping up its protocols ahead of the Winter Olympics, which open next month.
Tianjin is located just 70 miles (115 kilometers) northwest of Bejing so buses and trains are no longer running between the two cities. Authorities warned people not to leave the area unless they have urgent business.
Tianjin may be facing China’s first local outbreak of Omicron of any size.
State broadcaster CCTV said the government has divided Tianjin and its 14 million residents into three levels of restrictions, starting with lockdown areas where people are not allowed to leave their homes at all. In control areas, each household is allowed to have one family member leave to buy groceries every other day, while in prevention areas, people must remain inside their immediate neighborhoods.
Officials said earlier that the virus has been circulating so the number of cases could rise.
Elsewhere, millions of people are being confined to their homes in Xi’an and Yuzhou, two cities that are farther away but have larger outbreaks traced to the Delta variant. Residents of Xi’an have been under lockdown for more than two weeks, but the number of new cases in the city of 13 million fell to just 15 on Monday in a sign that restrictions could soon be lifted. Yuzhou is a city of about 1.1 million people in neighboring Henan province.
Another 60 cases were reported Monday in Henan, two of them of the Omicron variant, found in the city of Anyang and apparently brought from Tianjin by a college student on Dec. 28, state media outlet The Paper reported. The provincial capital of Zhengzhou has been conducting mass testing and closed its schools. Another 24 cases were reported in the city on Monday.
Those infected include 15 students from 8 to 13 years old, the after-school center staff member and four parents. The citywide testing is to be completed over two days. Tianjin has also closed some subway stations on two lines to try to prevent further spread.
China had reported about a dozen Omicron cases previously, most among people who had arrived from abroad and were isolated. In one case in mid-December, the infection was not detected until after the person had completed two weeks of quarantine, and it spread to a few close contacts in the southern city of Guangzhou.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.