The upcoming Beijing Winter Olympics could be derailed after two cases of the highly-infectious Omicron COVID-19 variant were detected in the northern coastal city of Tianjin, state media reports.

The Winter Games are scheduled to begin on February 4 2022, with thousands of athletes from around the world preparing to travel to the city to compete.

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China’s tough “COVID zero” approach could see athletes who test positive for Omicron unable to attend training sessions and compete in their sports throughout the games, despite the low risk of them becoming seriously ill.

The Tianjin outbreak poses a threat to Beijing and the Winter Olympics, because of the large number of commuters working and living in the two cities, the state-controlled outlet the Global Times said, citing an unnamed immunologist.

The city began testing its population of around 14 million shortly after the cases were detected. It will continue to test residents in four districts over the next 24 hours while other districts would be tested the day after, the Tianjin government said on Sunday.

Tianjin residents line up for testing on Sunday, after Omicron cases were discovered amid a cluster of COVID infections. Credit: AP

In order to travel, residents will need to obtain the green health code once they receive a negative result, it said.

Residents have also been advised not to leave town for unnecessary reasons to avoid further spreading the COVID mutation.

It comes after the local transmission of the imported Omicron variant was found in the southern city of Guangzhou, according to a national health official in December, though the number of cases was not disclosed.

China reported 165 confirmed coronavirus cases for January 8, up from 159 a day earlier, its health authority said on Sunday.

Of the new infections, 92 were locally transmitted, according to a statement by the National Health Commission, from 95 a day earlier.

A worker wearing a protection suit sprays disinfectant as residents wearing face masks to line up for COVID tests in the Chinese city of Tianjin on Sunday.
A worker wearing a protection suit sprays disinfectant as residents wearing face masks to line up for COVID tests in the Chinese city of Tianjin on Sunday. Credit: AP

Most of the new local cases were in Henan and Shaanxi provinces.

China reported 46 new asymptomatic cases, which it classifies separately from confirmed cases, compared with 52 a day earlier.

There were no new fatalities, leaving the death toll at 4636. Mainland China had 103,619 confirmed cases as of January 8.

– With AAP

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