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Beijing tests millions and isolates thousands due to a 24-hour COVID cluster

Image: Reuters Berita 24 English - On Monday, authorities in Beijing, China's capital, raced to contain a COVID-19 epidemic tied to a 24...


Image: Reuters


Berita 24 English - On Monday, authorities in Beijing, China's capital, raced to contain a COVID-19 epidemic tied to a 24-hour pub famed for its cheap alcohol and large crowds, with millions of residents facing forced testing and hundreds placed under targeted lockdowns.

The outbreak of nearly 200 cases linked to the city centre Heaven Supermarket Bar, which had just reopened after Beijing loosened restrictions last week, illustrates how difficult it will be for China to implement its "zero COVID" policy as the majority of the world opts to learn to live with the virus.

The reappearance of COVID infections raises additional concerns about the prognosis for the second-largest economy in the world. China is only now recovering from a two-month lockdown of Shanghai, its most populated metropolis and economic hub, which also disrupted global supply networks.

Beijing restaurants resumed dine-in service on June 6 after more than a month of COVID restrictions in the city of 22 million people. Numerous malls, gyms, and other venues were shut down, portions of the city's public transportation system were suspended, and millions of people were advised to work from home.

"We must now test every day. It is somewhat annoying, but necessary "Cao, 21, who operates a convenience store in Beijing's largest district Chaoyang, where the bar cluster was discovered, stated as much. The viral crisis has negatively impacted our business to the tune of 20 to 30 percent.

Monday marked the beginning of a three-day mass testing programme among Chaoyang's nearly 3.5 million citizens. Approximately 10,000 close contacts of the bar's clientele have been identified, and their residential structures have been placed on lockdown. Additionally, the reopening of various schools in the district has been delayed.

According to eyewitnesses cited by Reuters, lines at some testing locations on Monday extended for more than 100 metres. Large metal barricades have been erected around a number of residential communities, with individuals in hazmat suits spraying disinfectant in the vicinity.

'IN VAIN'

Heaven Supermarket Bar, modelled after a gigantic self-service liquor shop with chairs, sofas, and tables, regained its popularity among young, rowdy crowds hungry of socialising and partying during Beijing's COVID restrictions, when dine-in restrictions were relaxed last week.

Beijing revellers are familiar with the bar's vacant bottle-covered tables and clients dozing off on the sofas after midnight. The bar's aisles are stocked with everything from local heavy liquor to Belgian beer.

Authorities have labelled the outbreak as "ferocious" and "explosive" due to the over 200 COVID cases linked to the bar since June 9; infected individuals reside or work in 14 of the capital's 16 districts, according to authorities.

Officials have not remarked on the actual reason of the epidemic, nor have they explained why they have not yet reinstated last month's level of restrictions.

Monday's commentary in the state-backed Beijing Evening News attributed the outbreak to lapses and complacency in the prevention of epidemics.

"At a time when... normalcy is being restored in the city, the demise of Heaven Supermarket Bar signifies that the sacrifices and efforts of innumerable individuals were in vain," the newspaper reported.

If the infection spreads, "consequences might be severe and would be something no one wants to see," the report added.

BETRAYED IN "PARADISE"

The entrances of Heaven Supermarket Bar and other surrounding businesses, including the Paradise Massage & Spa, were blocked by police tape and security personnel.

Authorities stated that a small number of customers and employees of the parlour would be temporarily confined for inspections.

Beijing recorded a total of 51 cases on Sunday, compared to 65 the previous day, in accordance with the national trend of declining case numbers.

Shanghai, which finished mass testing for most of its 25 million citizens over the weekend after removing its lockdown and many of its limits at the beginning of the month, recorded 37 instances, an increase from the previous count of 29.

As authorities in Beijing dealt with fresh COVID cases in April, retail sales in the capital fell 16% year-over-year, while property sales plummeted 25%. The May data, due later this month, is also anticipated to be dismal.

Prior to the bar cases, there were high prospects for a June resurgence.


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