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China believes Omicron came there from Canada


January 17th, 2022

A health worker collects a swab sample from a woman in Beijing.

Chinese authorities are urging citizens not to order goods from overseas, in the latest extreme measure aimed at curbing Covid outbreaks only weeks away from the biggest holiday of the year and the start of the Beijing Winter Olympics.

The advisory on overseas packages was issued after authorities claimed that a recent Omicron infection detected in Beijing came from an international package sent from Canada.

China is committed to its policy of zero Covid, but there is also pressure to allow some celebrations during the upcoming lunar new year festivities, typically the biggest travel period of the year.

At the same time there is an urgency to keep the virus out of Beijing, which hosts the Winter Olympics in a few weeks. The Communist party government has pledged the Games will go ahead safely, albeit without overseas general spectators. On Monday the Games’ organising committee said tickets would be distributed to “targeted” groups of people and not be sold to the general public.

In his new year address, the Chinese leader, Xi Jinping, said “we will spare no effort to present a great Games to the world”, but the growing outbreaks have threatened the pledge.

Officials are under pressure to stamp out infections, and many having been punished for apparent failures. Different measures have been imposed across different provinces and cities, of varying degrees of severity.