A 24-hour bar known for its cheap booze and large crowds has been identified as an epicenter of China’s Covid outbreak, Beijing authorities rushed to contain the outbreak with millions of people on Monday facing mandatory testing and thousands under targeted lockdowns.
The outbreak of 228 cases linked to the Heaven Supermarket Bar, which had just reopened as restrictions in Beijing eased last week, shows how difficult it will be for China to succeed in its “zero Covid” policy as a big part of the rest of the world is choosing to learn to live with the virus.
The re-emergence of infections is also raising new concerns about the outlook for the world’s second-largest economy. China has just taken a heavy blow from a long lockdown in Shanghai – its most populous city and commercial hub – which has also disrupted global supply chains.
“The prevention and control of the epidemic is at a critical juncture,” Beijing health official Liu Xiaofeng told a press conference on Monday, adding that the sea bass-related outbreak of the largest area of the city, Chaoyang, “was still under development”.
In a show of how seriously authorities are taking the situation, Vice Premier Sun Chunlan went to the bar and said there was a need to step up Covid prevention and control in key locations, reports said. state media on Monday.
People infected in the outbreak live or work in 14 of the capital’s 16 districts, authorities said.
Drinking and eating in most Beijing establishments did not resume until June 6 after more than a month in which the city of 22 million imposed restrictions, including urging people to work from home and by closing shopping malls and parts of the transportation system.
Chaoyang on Monday launched a three-day mass testing campaign among its roughly 3.5 million residents. Around 10,000 close contacts of bar patrons have been identified and their residential buildings locked down.
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Some planned school reopenings in the district have been postponed.
Queues snaked around testing sites on Monday for more than 100 yards, Reuters witnesses said. Large metal barriers were erected around several residential compounds, with people in hazmat suits spraying disinfectant.
Other nearby businesses under lockdown include Paradise Massage & Spa salon. Police tape and security personnel blocked the entrance to the lounge on Sunday and authorities said a handful of people would be temporarily locked down for checks.
[with inputs from agencies]
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Post expires at 11:55am on Friday June 24th, 2022