A breakout of the omicron strain of Covid-19 over the weekend has seen the port city of Tianjin near Beijing enter partial lockdown. Exit controls have been put in place and mass testing is underway in the city, whose population today stands at 14m people. Another 21 cases were reported in the northeastern city on Monday with citizens placed into three tiers of lockdown.

The outbreak comes just weeks ahead of Beijing hosting the Winter Olympics. The Chinese capital is situated just 130 km northwest of Tianjin.

Beijing’s strict zero-Covid policy has curbed local outbreaks with mass testing, snap lockdowns, vigilant surveillance and extensive quarantines. However, new variants such as omicron have seen outbreaks intensify since the autumn.

Ningbo, home to the world’s largest port, has had three partial lockdowns in the space of six months.

The risk of further shut-downs in China is significant due to the combination of a zero-tolerance policy towards Covid and an omicron variant which is much more contagious than previous variants, analysts at liner consultancy Sea-Intelligence warned in their latest weekly report.

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Author Sam Chambers