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Tianjin, a large Chinese port city near the capital Beijing, began mass testing its 14 million residents after a group of 20 children and adults tested positive for Covid-19, at least two of them with the variant Omicron.

City-wide testing, which began on Sunday, is due to be completed over two days. Residents were advised to stay in or near their homes to be available for nucleic acid testing at the community level. They were told that until they get a negative test result, they will not receive a ‘green’ code on the Covid smartphone tracking apps that almost all people in China are now required to present when they use public transport and in other situations.

China has stepped up its zero tolerance strategy against Covid-19 ahead of the Winter Olympics, which will open on February 4 in Beijing. The Chinese capital is 150 km (90 miles) northwest of Tianjin and connected by a high-speed rail link that takes less than an hour.

Elsewhere in China, millions of people are confined to their homes in Xi’an and Yuzhou, two other cities more distant but where the epidemics are more important. The city of Zhengzhou, a provincial capital 70 km (40 miles) north of Yuzhou, is also conducting mass testing and closing schools from Monday.

China reported 165 confirmed cases of the coronavirus for Jan.8, up from 159 a day earlier, its health authority said on Sunday.