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COVID: Beijing tests millions of clusters at 24-hour bars

BEIJING –

Authorities in China’s capital Beijing on Monday raced to contain a COVID-19 outbreak that originated in a rowdy 24-hour bar known for cheap alcohol and large crowds, with rows Millions of people are under mandatory checks and thousands are locked on purpose.

The outbreak of nearly 200 cases linked to the downtown Heaven supermarket bar, which just reopened as Beijing’s curbs eased last week, suggests China will be just as tough How to successfully implement a “no COVID” policy. the rest of the world chooses to learn to live with the virus.

The resurgence of COVID-19 cases is also raising new concerns about the outlook for the world’s second-largest economy. China is just dealing a heavy blow from a two-month shutdown of Shanghai, its most populous city and commercial nerve center, which has also jolted global supply chains.

Dining services at restaurants in Beijing resumed on June 6 after more than a month, the city of 22 million people enforced multiple COVID regulations. Many malls, gyms and other venues have been closed, parts of the city’s public transport system suspended and millions of people urged to work from home.

“We have to check in every day. It’s a bit complicated but it’s necessary,” said a 21-year-old resident surnamed Cao, who runs a convenience store in Beijing’s biggest Chaoyang district, where the cluster of bars was discovered. . “The virus situation has affected our business a bit, it’s down about 20-30%.”

Chaoyang began a three-day mass testing campaign among its approximately 3.5 million residents on Monday. About 10,000 close contacts with bar patrons have been identified, and their residential buildings are locked down, and several schools reopening as planned in the district have already been closed. postponed.

According to Reuters witnesses, queues stretched more than 100 meters around several test sites on Monday. Large metal barriers have been installed around some residential areas, with people in anti-hazard suits spraying disinfectant nearby.

‘IN VAIN’

Last week, when the food curbs were removed, Heaven Supermarket Bar, modeled as a large self-service liquor store with chairs, sofas and tables, regained the popularity of the crowds. young, noisy, lack of socializing and partying during Beijing’s COVID restrictions.

The bar, where patrons stop by the aisle to buy anything from local spirits to Belgian beers, is popular with Beijing foodies for its plastered tables filled with empty bottles and customers falling asleep on the floor. sofa after midnight.

With nearly 200 bar-linked COVID cases as of June 9, authorities describe the outbreak as “intense” and “explosive” – ​​infected people live or work in 14 of the capital’s 16 districts, the government said.

Officials have not commented on the exact cause of the outbreak, nor explained why they have yet to restore the limit seen last month.

The state-backed Evening News report was caused by loopholes and complacency in state-backed epidemic prevention and control.

The newspaper wrote: “At a time when … normalcy in the city is being restored, the collapse of the supermarket bar Heaven means that the toil and efforts of countless people have become futile. “.

If an outbreak develops, “the consequences can be severe and no one will want to see,” it added.

CHANGES IN ‘PARADISE’

The supermarket bar Heaven and other nearby businesses, including Paradise Massage & Spa, are on lockdown, with police tape and security personnel blocking the entrances.

Authorities said some customers and employees at the salon will be temporarily locked away for inspection.

In total, Beijing reported 51 cases on Sunday, compared with 65 the day before, in line with a nationwide downward trend.

Shanghai, which completed mass testing of most of its 25 million residents over the weekend after lifting lockdowns and many curbs at the start of the month, reported 37 cases, up from 29. .

As Beijing authorities grapple with new COVID cases in April, retail sales in the capital fell 16% year-on-year, while property sales fell 25%. Data for May, due later this month, is also expected to be very bad.

Before the bar cases, there were high hopes for a June recovery.


(Reporting by Martin Quin Pollard, Ryan Woo and Beijing and Shanghai offices; writing by Marius Zaharia; editing by Kenneth Maxwell)

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