China’s e-commerce hub faces Omicron surge ahead of holiday

China’s omicron outbreak has spread to its main e-commerce hub days before the Lunar New Year break, the latest in a series of outbreaks putting the holiday plans of millions at risk.

At least seven infections have been detected in Hangzhou, a city near Shanghai and home to Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. and fintech giant Ant Group Co. Cases are feared to rise after one of the patients attended a company meeting with several hundred people.

Several Alibaba and Ant employees said they had not yet undergone mandatory company-wide testing because their campuses are located far from the epicenter of the outbreak. A representative for Ant declined to comment, while an Alibaba spokesperson did not immediately respond.

In the north of the country, the main port city of Tianjin reported a new infection just a day after cases fell to zero. The re-emergence of omicron follows a nearly three-week containment effort that disrupted production at Toyota Motor Corp. and Volkswagen AG. While neighboring Beijing managed to limit its recent omicron surge to six people, it continues to struggle with a worsening delta cluster centered on cold-storage workers.

The spread comes just days before the New Year holiday week which typically sees hundreds of millions of Chinese crossing the country to visit families and hometowns. Concerns that these trips could spark new outbreaks have prompted some local authorities in lower-tier cities to warn people returning from places that have recently reported infections.

The cases also underscore the challenges China faces in advancing the Covid Zero ambitions that have made it a global outlier. The continued spread of the virus has occurred despite some of the toughest containment measures in the world, including border restrictions and lockdowns for even single-digit increases in infections, and is likely to test how far it will be. practical to entirely eradicate the most transmissible ones. omicron variant.

China has reported 23 Covid cases among those involved in the Olympics, which begin on February 4. Cases have risen in Beijing despite the capital’s strict measures, but authorities are less likely to adopt the harsh restrictions that have been imposed on smaller towns during similar outbreaks. .

On Thursday, the country reported 42 household infections, 17 of which were symptomless. The northeastern province of Heilongjiang has reported 16 infections, while the western outpost of Xinjiang continues to find infections near its border with Kazakhstan. Anyang City, which is fighting the spread of omicron from Tianjin, had an infection.

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