China's local COVID cases fall while infections grow in Beijing city

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BEIJING -China reported on Friday the lowest daily tally of confirmed locally transmitted COVID-19 cases in nearly two months, while infections edged up in the capital Beijing amid high virus alert before its hosting of the Winter Olympics Games.

China reported 23 domestically transmitted infections with confirmed symptoms for Thursday, official data showed on Friday, down from 43 a day earlier.

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This marks the fourth consecutive day of decline in local symptomatic cases, with the lowest daily case load since Nov. 29, after a national strategy to extinguish flare-ups as quickly as possible forced the worst-hit cities to lock down affected communities and cut non-essential business activity.

Volkswagen said its FAW-Volkswagen vehicle assembly plant in the city of Tianjin resumed production on Friday after shutting down on Jan. 10 due to a COVID-19 outbreak.

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Tianjin, in the north, reported eight locally spread cases with confirmed symptoms for Thursday, the lowest since Jan. 8, as it has largely brought its first outbreak of the Omicron variant under control.

On Friday, Beijing detected seven new domestically transmitted infections with confirmed symptoms, and another five new local asymptomatic carriers, said Pang Xinghuo, an official at the city’s disease control authority.

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The capital had confirmed five local cases for Thursday, up from three a day earlier.

The city is fighting two clusters based on preliminary results from COVID-19 investigations – one caused by the Omicron variant entering through international mail, and another where Delta was brought in via imported cold-chain goods, Pang told reporters during a news briefing.

The World Health Organization had said the coronavirus spreads primarily between people in close contact.

Beijing’s caseload, totalling 13 local confirmed cases and five local symptomless carriers since Jan. 15, remains tiny. Still, the city is keen on minimising virus risk to safely stage the Winter Olympics that starts on Feb. 4.

It has tested thousands of people in or close to areas where infected people live, shut some businesses near quarantined buildings, and ordered inspections and more frequent COVID-19 testing in cold-chain companies.

The southern city of Zhuhai and Xian in the northwest also reported a handful of new local cases for Thursday.

China reported for Thursday two new domestically transmitted asymptomatic cases, which it classifies separately from confirmed cases, in the southwestern province of Yunnan.

There were no new deaths, leaving the death toll at 4,636. As of Jan. 20, mainland China had 105,484 confirmed symptomatic cases, including both local ones and those arriving from abroad.

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