Beijing’s Omicron outbreak leads to temple closures

China reported 65 cases of Covid-19 transmitted locally for January 15, including the first Omicron case in Beijing, only a few weeks after the start of the city Winter Olympics February 4 and the country Lunar New Year Holidays. That was down from 104 comparable cases a day earlier, as the outbreak in the northwest city of Xian winds down after strict lockdowns. But the highly transmissible Omicron variant has been detected in at least five provinces and municipalities, prompting cities to impose curbs to stop its spread and threatening to further undermine slowing economic growth.

Saturday, the capital Beijing reported the first local infection of the Omicron variant, involving a person who visited multiple malls and restaurants in the previous 14 days. The person had not left town since the beginning of this year. China did not specify the total number of Omicron cases detected. On 13,000 people have been tested for Covid-19 in Haidian district where the case was discovered, but none of the results came back positive, Beijing Daily, a government newspaper, cited official data on Sunday. However, some religious sites in the city were already closed to visitors as a precaution. The Lama Temple, a Tibetan Buddhist monastery in central Beijing, announced on Sunday that it would be closed indefinitely due to the Covid-19 outbreak and control measures.

“It is too early to conclude that Omicron will overwhelm China’s efforts to suppress Covid,” Mark Williams, chief Asia economist at Capital Economics, said in a note released Friday. “But it is clear that the emergence of more transmissible variants requires more frequent interventions… And the economic toll of this vigilance is getting heavier.”

Mainland China reported 119 new confirmed cases of Covid-19 for January 15, including imported infections, up from 165 a day earlier, according to data from the National Health Commission (NHC) on Sunday. New locally transmitted cases were in Tianjin, Henan, beijing, Guangdong and Shanxi, said the NHC. There were no new deaths, leaving the death toll at 4,636. As of January 15, mainland China had 104,864 confirmed cases.