China’s capital Beijing is facing an “explosive” COVID-19 outbreak linked to a bar, a government spokesman warned on Saturday, as the commercial center of Shanghai began massive tests to jump in cases linked to a popular beauty salon.
The warning followed a renewed tightening of COVID limits in Beijing since Thursday, with at least two districts — including the most populous, Chaoyang — shutting down certain nightlife spots after a flare-up in a busy neighborhood known for its nightlife, shopping and streets. with embassies.
While the infection rate in China is low by global standards, President Xi Jinping has doubled down on a zero-COVID policy that authorities say are necessary to protect the elderly and the medical system, even as other countries try to live with the virus.
So far, there have been only 5,226 fatalities in the country of 1.4 billion.
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The latest cases in Beijing were linked to a drinking establishment known as Heaven Supermarket Bar. The number of infections has soared since then, with Beijing saying on Saturday that all 61 new cases discovered in the city on Friday had visited or had links to the bar.
“The recent outbreak of cases involving Heaven Supermarket Bar is highly explosive in nature and widespread in scope, and the makeup of the individuals involved is also complex,” Beijing municipal government spokesman Xu Hejian said at a news conference.
The capital reported 46 new local COVID cases as of 3 p.m. local time (0700 GMT) on Saturday, health official Liu Xiaofeng told the same briefing. All cases were discovered in individuals already isolated or under observation, Liu said. The city did not announce any new curbs during the briefing.
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The city did not announce any new curbs during the briefing, but later Beijing’s sports administration said all off-campus and “offline” sports activities for teens would be canceled from Sunday.
So far, a total of 115 cases and 6,158 close contacts with the bar have been reported, leaving the city of 22 million in a state of terror once again.
Less than two weeks ago, Beijing had eased COVID restrictions imposed to fight a major outbreak that began in April.
With the COVID resurgence, the sprawling Universal Beijing Resort – a theme park on the outskirts of the city – revoked a plan to reopen late Friday, saying it would remain closed until further notice. According to Beijing authorities, three of his employees had visited the Heaven Supermarket bar.
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Many neighborhoods in the capital have been locked and residents have to stay at home.
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In Shanghai, city officials announced three new confirmed local cases on Saturday and one asymptomatic case detected outside quarantine areas on Saturday as nearly all of the city’s 25 million residents embarked on another round of COVID testing.
Authorities ordered PCR tests this weekend for all residents of 15 of Shanghai’s 16 districts, with five districts banning residents from leaving their homes during the testing period. Shanghai residents must complete at least one PCR test per week until July 31, a city official told a news conference on Saturday.
The new tests come just 10 days after the city lifted a two-month lockdown aimed at eliminating the spread of COVID-19 in the community, raising concerns among many residents struggling with lost revenue, the loss of freedom, the death of friends and relatives, and even starvation during that period.
“I’m a little concerned because if there are positive cases in the compound, it will be placed in a closed situation,” said Shi Weiqi, a resident of Shanghai. “I will also stock up on some supplies in case the previous situation reoccurs.”
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Shanghai authorities said they also reprimanded and fired several district-level officials for mistakes at a hotel used to quarantine arrivals from abroad, which had been identified as one of the sources of Shanghai’s wave of the Omicron variant. of the coronavirus.
They also said they had warned or fired several executives at a state-owned company that owned the Red Rose beauty salon, where three cases were found among employees this week.
The salon’s employees had not followed guidelines for performing PCR testing on a daily basis, they said.
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On Saturday, Shanghai reported seven new local symptomatic cases for the previous day, one more than a day earlier, including six outside the quarantine zones.
The city also registered nine new local asymptomatic cases, up from six the previous day.
In total, mainland China reported 210 new coronavirus cases before June 10, 79 of which were symptomatic and 131 asymptomatic, the National Health Commission said on Saturday.
That was more than 151 new cases a day earlier – 45 symptomatic and 106 asymptomatic infections, which China counts separately.
As of Friday, mainland China had confirmed 224,659 cases with symptoms.
Reporting by Andrew Galbraith, Ryan Woo, Brenda Goh and the Shanghai Newsroom; Editing by Kim Coghill and David Holmes