By Alvaro Alfaro
Beijing, Jun 15 (EFE).- A fresh Covid-19 outbreak in Beijing’s bar area threatens the short-lived reopening of the capital after nearly two months of severe restrictions, as thousands of people are once again under confinement, while regular PCR tests are conducted.
On Wednesday, the Beijing authorities reported 63 new cases in the last 24 hours, 38 of them asymptomatic. The number of symptomatic cases detected in the last seven days now amounts to 174.
Despite the small size of the outbreak, it is one of the most serious in Beijing since the start of the pandemic, against which the Chinese authorities continue to adopt a policy of zero tolerance.
The authorities at Beijing, with a population of 22 million, are trying to contain the outbreak by applying the usual Chinese procedure – selective confinement wherever cases are detected, isolation of the infected and their close contacts, and large-scale PCR tests.
The 3.5 million inhabitants of Chaoyang Central District, where the outbreak originated and the city’s financial center, are being subjected to daily PCR tests following a campaign launched by the authorities on Monday.
In addition, an undetermined number of residential buildings and businesses are under lockdown because they are related to the infected or their thousands of close contacts, who are being made to undergo a medical follow-up.
Before this latest outbreak, PCR testing was already a part of the routine of millions of residents of the Chinese capital, who were required to have a negative test conducted in the previous 48 to 72 hours to access public places such as supermarkets, hospitals, and parks.
This outbreak was caused by a visit by a Covid-19 positive man to numerous bars in Beijing last week despite not having undergone PCR testing between May 26 and Jun.8.
In this case, at least one of the bars he visited did not check his health code – which shows if one has visited risk areas in the last 14 days -, or his body temperature, thereby violating the health regulations that restaurants, bars and other venues must follow, according to local media reports.
This reportedly caused the establishment concerned to lose its license.
The authorities reported having opened an investigation against the person at the bar responsible for obstructing Covid-19 preventive measures, and at least one close contact of a bar customer who, did not pay heed to orders to isolate himself at home.
According to local media, Vice Premier Sun Chunlan, the “strong arm” of the Central government in the health crisis, visited the bar and other public places in the district this week and called for strengthening anti-pandemic efforts in the city.
The outbreak’s resurgence in the capital comes after the authorities on Jun.6 relaxed the restrictions that included working from home where possible, the reduction of public transport services and the partial closure of restaurants, with only takeaway or home delivery facility available.
These restrictions were in place for over a month, while the country was suffering its largest outbreak since the beginning of the pandemic, which led to the confinement of the eastern city of Shanghai for almost two months.
So far, the Beijing authorities have not announced the reintroduction of the measures that were in force in May, but has decreed a temporary closure of at least 74 bars in the Chaoyang district, as well as other businesses such as gymnasiums or massage parlors.
China, which continues to apply its zero-covid policy, has recorded 225,054 infections and 5,226 deaths since the beginning of the pandemic, according to official figures, which exclude asymptomatic cases.
Apart from incalculable economic losses, the harsh measures in recent months have also, for the first time, caused visible signs of irritation and discontent among the population, who had, until now, largely supported this government policy. EFE