The detection of the Omicron strain in Beijing comes as cities across the country heighten their vigilance against the virus ahead of the Winter Olympics.
The first locally transmitted case of Omicron has been detected in the Chinese capital, Beijing, weeks before Beijing hosts the Winter Olympics, officials said.
State television reported Saturday that a new COVID infection has been identified as the Omicron strain.
Pang Xinghuo, an official with the city’s disease control department, said at a news conference that laboratory tests found “mutations unique to the Omicron variant” in the person.
The announcement came a day after the southern city of Zhuhai imposed travel restrictions on residents as mass testing uncovered seven infected people.
Millions of people across the country have been ordered to stay home, dozens of domestic flights have been cancelled and factories closed in recent weeks as the country tries to contain a spate of small coronavirus outbreaks, including several from a variant of the Omicron. Olympic, will begin on February 4.
A locally transmitted case of Omicron was detected in the capital’s Haidian district, which is home to the headquarters of many tech companies, a rare breakthrough in Beijing’s tightly guarded COVID-19 defenses, city official Pang told a news conference.
Authorities are testing other occupants of the patient’s housing complex and office buildings, and restricting access to 17 locations linked to the infected, Pang said.
Beijing has long banned people from parts of the country where cases have been reported, while requiring all arrivals to provide recent COVID-19 test reports.
Residents have also been urged in recent weeks not to leave the city for the upcoming Chinese New Year holiday.
On Friday, the coastal city of Zhuhai, which borders the gambling hub of Macau, said Omicron was detected in one mildly ill patient and six asymptomatic patients.
Zhuhai officials have asked residents to avoid leaving the city “unless necessary” and those who do must show a negative COVID test result within the past 24 hours.
The city conducted mass testing of its population of 2.4 million on Friday after a case of the new coronavirus was detected in neighboring Zhongshan earlier this week.
Businesses including beauty salons, chess and card rooms, gyms and movie theaters were ordered to close on Thursday, and officials announced the suspension of public bus routes in parts of the city.
Throughout the pandemic, China has kept COVID-19 cases relatively low through its zero-tolerance strategy of ordering mass testing and strict lockdowns as soon as infections are detected.
Smaller cities in China have imposed tougher lockdowns, with millions of people being asked to stay home for testing, while economic hubs such as Shanghai and Beijing have taken more targeted measures to lock down and test only specific communities.
But in recent weeks, a fast-spreading variant of Omicron has tested this strategy, emerging in the port city of Tianjin, close to Beijing, before spreading to the central city of Anyang.
Mi Feng, a spokesman for the National Health Commission, told reporters on Saturday that the country faces a “dual challenge” from the Delta and Omicron strains.
He warned that the prevention and control measures “must not be relaxed” and “strengthen risk audits” in areas where the epidemic has not yet occurred.