BEIJING (Reuters) – China is on high alert against COVID-19 as the New Year holidays loom, with the city of Xian under lockdown while several New Year’s events in other cities have been canceled and some provinces have urged restrictions on travel during the holiday season.

China on Thursday reported 166 locally transmitted infections with confirmed symptoms, according to the National Health Commission, including 161 from Xian, which is battling the worst outbreak for a Chinese city this year.

The number of nationally transmitted infections in Xian exceeded 1,200 during the period from December 9 to 30. While the number of cases is paltry compared to many outbreaks overseas, China has insisted on eradicating infections quickly, especially ahead of the Beijing Winter Olympics in February.

“With the arrival of the New Year and Lunar New Year, the number of people returning from abroad will increase and the movement of people within China will increase,” Commission official He Qinghua said on Wednesday. national health.

“Coupled with the emergence of new variants such as the Omicron, these scenarios will increase the risk of the epidemic spreading,” he said.

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Popular Happy Valley Amusement Park in Beijing canceled an event to celebrate the New Year, while Happy Valley Park in eastern city of Nanjing removed a drone show and fireworks from its celebratory lineup for New Year’s Eve.

In the financial hub of Shanghai, the Great World amusement park said it would not hold special events such as stage performances, while there would be no countdown in major districts on along the Huangpu River.

The central city of Wuhan, where COVID-19 first appeared in late 2019, will not hold any large-scale gatherings during New Year’s Eve in some public places, including in Guanggu, one of the longest pedestrianized shopping streets. of the world.

Several Buddhist bell ringing ceremonies in the eastern cities of Nanjing, Yangzhou and Zhenjiang to celebrate the New Year have also been canceled.

Northern Hebei Province, which will host some events for the Winter Olympics, said it urges residents not to travel unnecessarily during the New Year and Lunar New Year period.

Shanxi province, also in the north, advised residents not to travel to other provinces for tourism, while northwestern Ningxia region said people were encouraged not to leave. the area unnecessarily.

As of December 30, mainland China had 102,083 confirmed symptomatic cases, including local and imported cases, with a death toll of 4,636.

Graph: Main COVID-19 outbreaks in China in 2021

(Reporting by Roxanne Liu, Gabriel Crossley and Albee Zhang; Editing by Sam Holmes and Michael Perry)

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