Biden’s spokeswoman Covid positive on eve of European trip

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Joe Biden’s chief spokeswoman, Jen Psaki, said she had tested positive for Covid-19 for the second time, but the US president tested negative.

The press secretary said she had held two socially distanced meetings with Mr Biden, who is vaccinated, a day earlier.

However, “the president tested negative today via a PCR test,” she said in a statement, adding that Mr. Biden, 79, is “not considered a close contact” within the meaning of from America’s top health agency.

As a result of the test, Ms Psaki will not travel to Europe tomorrow with the White House team for the NATO and EU summits on the Russian invasion of Ukraine, and for another summit Poland.

This is the second time she has had to cancel a high-profile overseas trip due to Covid.

She also tested positive in October last year, after deciding not to travel to Europe with Mr Biden when members of his family contracted the virus.

Ms Psaki said she had mild symptoms, for which she credited the Covid-19 vaccine, and said she was working from home.

She planned to return to work in person at the end of a five-day isolation period and testing negative.

Meanwhile, the Taoiseach, who tested positive for Covid-19 in Washington last week, is expected to decide tomorrow whether he can attend an EU summit in Brussels later this week.

Micheál Martin is free of Covid symptoms and has been staying in Washington since his positive test result.

China locks down 9m city as Covid spreads

China locked down an industrial city of nine million people overnight and reported more than 4,000 cases of the virus, as the country’s ‘zero-Covid’ strategy faces an Omicron wave.

Health authorities reported 4,770 new infections across the country, most in northeastern Jilin province, as Shenyang city in neighboring Liaoning province was ordered to close late at night last.

China has moved quickly in recent weeks to snuff out virus clusters with a choice of hyper-local lockdowns, mass testing and citywide shutdowns. It reported two Covid-19 deaths on Saturday, the first in more than a year.

Authorities have warned of the risk posed to growth by continued lockdowns as the country struggles to balance the health crisis with the needs of the world’s second-largest economy.

Shenyang, an industrial base home to factories including automaker BMW, reported 47 new cases today.

Authorities there placed all housing compounds under “closed management” and banned residents from leaving without a negative test result for 48 hours.

A resident undergoes a Covid test in Dalian, Liaoning province, northeast China

Last week, Chinese President Xi Jinping stressed the need to “minimize the impact” of the pandemic on the Chinese economy, but also urged officials to “stick” to the current zero- Covid.

But Beijing’s virus playbook has been pushed to the limit by Omicron’s latest push, which has forced authorities to free up hospital beds for patients with mild symptoms.

Some cities like Shanghai have avoided a full lockdown and instead imposed a web of individual building lockdowns, even as new daily asymptomatic infections number in the hundreds.

Officials in Jilin province announced yesterday that the first 10,000 doses of Pfizer’s oral Covid drug arrived on Sunday, marking the first use of Paxlovid in China.

The province imposed strict travel restrictions last week prohibiting residents from leaving their cities and counties, while several cities have already confined residents to their homes.

The southern tech powerhouse in Shenzhen announced yesterday that it would lift its week-long lockdown “in an orderly fashion”, after partially easing measures on Friday to minimize the impact of virus shutdowns on factories and ports.

Last week, health officials revealed that only around half of Chinese over the age of 80 had been double-vaccinated, amid the specter of disastrous Covid death rates in Hong Kong – mostly among the elderly unvaccinated – looms over Beijing’s decision-making.

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