Millions tested in Beijing amid 24-hour bar emerging as Covid epicentre

Beijing Updated: Jun 14, 2022, 05:02 PM(IST)

People line up for nucleic acid test at a mobile testing booth in Beijing Photograph:( Reuters )

Story highlights

The outbreak of 228 cases linked to the Heaven Supermarket Bar, which had just reopened as restrictions in Beijing eased last week, highlights how hard it will be for China to make a success of its "zero Covid" policy as much of the rest of the world opts to learn how to live with the virus.
 

A 24-hour bar known for cheap liquor and big crowds has been identified as a Covid outbreak epicentre in China, authorities in Beijing raced on Monday to contain the outbreak with millions 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, highlights how hard it will be for China to make a success of its "zero Covid" policy as much of the rest of the world opts to learn how 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 is only just shaking off a heavy blow from a long lockdown in Shanghai - its most populous city and commercial nerve centre - that also disrupted global supply chains. 

"Epidemic prevention and control are at a critical juncture," a Beijing health official, Liu Xiaofeng, told a news conference on Monday, adding that the outbreak linked to the bar in the city's biggest district, Chaoyang, was "still developing".

In a show of how seriously authorities are taking the situation, Vice Premier Sun Chunlan visited the bar and said it was necessary to strengthen Covid prevention and control of key places, state media reported on Monday.

People infected in the outbreak live or work in 14 of the capital's 16 districts, authorities have said.

Drinking and dining in most of Beijing's establishments only resumed on June 6 after more than a month in which the city of 22 million enforced curbs including urging people to work from home and shutting malls and parts of the transport system.

Chaoyang kicked off a three-day mass testing campaign among its roughly 3.5 million residents on Monday. About 10,000 close contacts of the bar's patrons have been identified, and their residential buildings put under lockdown.

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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 metres, according to Reuters witnesses. Large metal barriers have been installed around several residential compounds, with people in hazmat suits spraying disinfectant.

Other nearby businesses under lockdown included the Paradise Massage & Spa parlour. Police tape and security staff blocked the entrance to the parlour on Sunday and authorities said a handful of people would be locked in temporarily for checks.

[with inputs from agencies]

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