Beijing on Jan. 23 introduced new COVID-19 measures as it faces a “severe and complicated” battle to contain the virus less than two weeks before the opening of the Winter Olympic Games.
After identifying a handful of positive cases in the district of Fengtai, officials have organized nucleic acid tests for the district’s 2 million residents, starting from 6 a.m. on Sunday, district health authorities said. The testing will be completed in one day, officials added.
“The epidemic prevention is severe and complicated,” Xu Hejian, the spokesperson of the Beijing government, said at Sunday’s press briefing. Xu added that officials must take “the most resolute, decisive, and strict” measures to contain the outbreak.
The authorities said people who live in areas deemed “at risk” are not allowed to leave the city.
Some kindergartens in Fengtai district told parents that unvaccinated children are not allowed to attend, citing new government regulations, according to Reuters.
China started to vaccinate children from the age of 3 years old since last October. Authorities have said the vaccination is voluntary.
“This is not on a voluntary basis. This is coercion,” a mother surnamed Wang, whose child attends a private kindergarten in Fengtai, told Reuters.
The capital city has largely sealed off from the outside in the lead-up to the Games. To prevent any flare-ups from spilling into Beijing, authorities have imposed travel curbs, restricting those who had been to areas with confirmed cases or international ports from entering the city. Restrictions have also been placed on trains and planes from risky areas entering the city.
Outside Beijing in central-north China’s Henan Province, several million have been confined in their homes and await a new round of testing under the regime’s “zero-Covid” policy.
Despite its aggressive containment efforts, Beijing continues to report infections, emerging as the country’s latest virus hotspot.
Health officials reported 13 infections on Sunday, including four people that have not yet shown any symptoms.
The official figure is tiny compared with massive surges elsewhere in the world. However, given the Chinese regime is known to grossly underreport its virus numbers, it is likely not to reflect the true total.
Beijing Olympic organizers on Sunday also reported 72 cases among Game-related personnel who entered China earlier this month.
The Winter Olympics will run in Beijing from Feb. 2 to Feb. 20, with among the world’s most restrictive COVID control measures put in place. Only selected spectators will be allowed to watch the events in person. Athletes, officials, and journalists are required to stay within a “closed-loop system” that keeps them from contact with the general public.
Officials also warned its citizens to stay away from special vehicles for the Olympic Games if traffic incidents happen.
The Winter Games has drawn scrutiny over the communist regime’s human rights violations in Xinjiang, Tibet, and elsewhere.
The United States, UK, and several other democratic countries announced that they would not send official delegations in protest against the human rights abuses against Uyghur and other Muslim minorities in China’s far-western Xinjiang region.
On Jan. 19, Beijing cautioned athletes against speaking out during the Games, warning “certain punishments” for saying or doing anything that violates the country’s rules and regulations. The Chinese regime heavily restricts speech in the country, with those who criticize Beijing online or elsewhere facing punishment under the legal system.
Earlier this week, U.S. broadcaster NBC said it wouldn’t be sending its commentators to China, citing the same virus concerns raised when the network pulled most of its announcers from the Tokyo Games.
The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.