China’s third city was put on lockdown in the wake of the Covid-19 outbreak, bringing the total number of residents confined to their homes nationwide to about 20 million.
Authorities in Anyang city banned its nearly 5.2 million people from venturing out. With the exception of shops selling essentials, most stores are closed and all private cars are off the road.
The restrictions announced on Monday night will remain in effect while mass testing takes place, but officials have not set a deadline.
Anyang’s lockdown came after two Omicron cases were detected over the weekend, possibly linked to another outbreak in the city of Tianjin, 400 kilometers (250 miles) away. It is worth noting that until recently, confirmed cases of Omicron transmission in China were limited to persons returning from abroad and their direct contacts.
Of all 87 cases of COVID-19 in Henan province, 58 have been reported in Anyang.
The city is in close proximity to the 2022 Winter Olympics venues in Beijing and Hebei province, which start on February 4. Chinese authorities are counting on a “closed loop” system for athletes, staff and spectators, which should minimize contact with the outside world.
In addition to Anyang, about 13 million people in Xi’an have been confined to their homes for more than two weeks, and another 1.1 million in Yuzhou have been confined to their homes. Both cities are reportedly grappling with the delta strain, and so far there are no known cases of Omicron in either city. In Xi’an, at least 2,000 people have tested positive.
Cities such as Zhengzhou, Shenzhen, and Tianjin have not implemented stay-at-home orders for the time being, opting instead to close schools and kindergartens, restrict long-distance travel, and implement partial lockdown compounds in certain areas and housing. On top of that, there has been a massive testing campaign across China in recent weeks.