Tuesday Jun 14, 2022
Authorities in China's capital warned on Tuesday that a COVID-19 surge in cases linked to a 24-hour bar was critical and the city of 22 million was in a "race against time" to get to grips with its most serious outbreak since the pandemic began.
The flare-up means millions of people are facing mandatory testing and thousands are under targeted lockdowns, just days after the city started to lift widespread curbs that had run for more than a month to tackle a broader outbreak since late April.
Authorities announced on the weekend a "ferocious" COVID outbreak linked to the Heaven Supermarket Bar, which had only just re-opened after coronavirus curbs were eased last week.
The outbreak of at least 287 cases has raised new worries about the outlook for the world's second-largest economy. China is just recovering from a two-month lockdown in the city of Shanghai that had raised worries about global supply chains.
"We should go all out, race against time," He Lijian, spokesman for the Beijing municipal government, told a news conference, referring to efforts to contain the outbreak.
Drinking and dining in most establishments in Beijing only resumed on June 6, after more than a month of measures such as take-out meals only and working from home, along with the closure of malls and stretches of the transport system.
Authorities have refrained from restoring the toughest of the earlier restrictions, but about 10,000 close contacts of the customers of the bar have been identified and their residential buildings put under lockdown.
Chaoyang, the city's largest district in which the bar is located, began a three-day mass testing campaign on Monday for its roughly 3.5 million residents.
People infected in the latest surge in cases live or work in 14 of the capital's 16 districts, authorities have said.
Police have launched a criminal investigation into the person in charge of the bar on suspected interference with epidemic prevention, Pan Xuhong, deputy director of the city's Public Security Bureau, told the news conference.