China reports fewer coronavirus cases but Omicron spread unclear

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SHANGHAI — China reported fewer new confirmed coronavirus cases for Jan. 14 than a day earlier, but details on the spread of the highly contagious Omicron variant remained unclear ahead of the Lunar New Year travel season later this month.

In a statement on Saturday, China’s National Health Commission (NHC) reported 165 new confirmed coronavirus cases for Jan. 14, down from 201 a day earlier.

Of the new infections, 104 were locally transmitted, according to a statement by the National Health Commission, compared with 143 a day earlier.

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The new locally transmitted cases were in Henan, Tianjin, Guangdong, Shaanxi and Zhejiang.

Cities across China have ratcheted up viral vigilance as Beijing prepares to stage the Winter Olympics from Feb. 4. Many local governments have advised residents not to leave town unnecessarily, while dozens of international and domestic flights have been suspended.

Despite stringent controls, state media reported on Saturday that Beijing had detected an infection in a person working in the city’s Haidian district. Reports did not specify the infection variant.

China has reported locally transmitted infections of the highly contagious Omicron variant in at least four provinces and municipalities — in the northern city of Tianjin, the central province of Henan, the southern province of Guangdong and the northeastern province of Liaoning.

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Authorities have warned that Omicron adds to the increased risk of COVID-19 transmission as more people return to China from overseas for the Lunar New Year holiday.

He Qinghua, an NHC official, said in a briefing on Saturday that the Omicron variant was also detected in Shanghai, without specifying the case count. He did not say whether the variant had been spread locally or imported from overseas.

He said 14 provincial areas in China had found the Omicron variant in infected individuals arriving from overseas.

China also reported 25 new asymptomatic cases for Jan. 14, down from 42 infections a day earlier. China classifies asymptomatic cases separately from confirmed cases.

There were no new deaths, leaving the death toll at 4,636.

As of Jan. 14, mainland China had 104,745 confirmed cases.

(Reporting by Andrew Galbraith in Shanghai and the Beijing Newsroom; Editing by Muralikumar Anantharaman and Ros Russell)

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