China on Tuesday expressed confidence that the Beijing Winter Olympics will be held successfully as scheduled, but said the new Omicron variant of Covid-19 will pose challenges to prevention and control measures.
Foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian made the remarks at a regular press briefing, as the new variant spread rapidly across the globe with borders shutting and dozens of countries rolling out travel restrictions.
Zhao said: "As to how Omicron will affect the Beijing Winter Olympics, I believe there will be some challenges to the prevention and control efforts.
“However, with the experience we have accumulated in dealing with the virus, I have every confidence that the Beijing Winter Olympics will be held smoothly and successfully as scheduled.”
He added China appreciates that South Africa had promptly shared information about the variant's discovery with the world.
“We must rely on science to fight the virus, and support the World Health Organization to continuously play a leading role in assisting national response of various countries and advancing international cooperation to battle Covid-19.
“China stands ready to work together with the international community including southern African countries to vanquish Covid-19,” he added.
Meanwhile, mainland health authorities said they have the means to cope with the new variant.
"China has already done a good job of technical preparations" for the Omicron variant, said Xu Wenbo, head of the National Institute for Viral Disease Control and Prevention.
"We have many lines of technical research, including preliminary technical research into deactivated vaccines, protein-based vaccines and vector-based vaccines," he said at a separate Tuesday briefing.
More than 1.1 billion people have been fully vaccinated against the coronavirus as of Monday, according to health authorities. (CCTV/AFP)