Mass COVID-19 testing announced in Beijing amid ‘fierce’ outbreak

A health worker obtains a swab sample from a woman to test for the Covid-19 coronavirus at a swab collection site in Beijing on June 12.NOEL CELIS/AFP/Getty Images

Beijing’s most populous district, Chaoyang, announced three rounds of mass testing to quell a “fierce” outbreak of COVID-19 that emerged from a bar in a shopping and nightlife area last week, shortly after the city relaxed restrictions imposed during an outbreak in April.

City health officials said there have so far been 166 confirmed cases linked to the outbreak that began Thursday at the Heaven Supermarket bar in the Sanlitun area, 145 of them patrons of the bar.

The mass tests will be carried out between Monday and Wednesday in the Chaoyang district, where the bar is located, officials said at a news conference.

The total number of cases and deaths from the pandemic remains extremely low in China compared to many countries around the world.

But even as much of the world has relaxed restrictions, Chinese authorities are sticking with their zero-COVID policy, trying to stamp out outbreaks early with measures that include tight restrictions on movement and mass testing.

Xu Hejian, spokesman for the Beijing city government, said at Sunday’s briefing that the current outbreak in the capital is “fierce.”

“Currently, there is still a risk of further spread. The most urgent task at the moment is to trace the source of the cluster and also to manage and control the risks,” he said, adding that Beijing must prevent the emergence of “epidemic amplifiers”.

Two buildings housing hundreds of residents in a Chaoyang compound were put on strict lockdown on Sunday after a single positive case, a residential committee worker told Reuters.

Large metal barricades were set up around the compound. Staff in hazmat suits carrying disinfectant entered the building and additional security and police were brought in at exits.

Several nearby businesses, including “Paradise Massage & Spa”, were also temporarily closed with police tape and security personnel to block exits.

A handful of clients and salon staff would be locked down for at least two days while checks were carried out, a government worker told Reuters.

Some Beijing residents reported receiving multiple text messages on Sunday telling them to inform their neighborhood organizations if they had recently visited bars in Sanlitun.

It was only a week ago that state media reported that Beijing would further relax COVID restrictions by allowing indoor dining.

In Shanghai, subject to a two-month lockdown until early June, authorities on Saturday announced a round of tests for most of its 25 million residents.

Shanghai officials told reporters they found one symptomatic and four asymptomatic cases as of Sunday afternoon, after finding 10 new local symptomatic cases and 19 local asymptomatic cases a day earlier.

Dinner services will be allowed to resume at a number of restaurants and eateries in three suburban districts, Shanghai officials said.

China reported 275 new coronavirus cases as of June 11, of which 134 were symptomatic and 141 asymptomatic, the National Health Commission said on Sunday.

There were no new deaths, leaving the total for the pandemic at 5,226. As of Saturday, mainland China had confirmed 224,781 cases with symptoms.

China’s Shanghai shopping mall will lock down millions of people for mass COVID-19 testing this weekend, just 10 days after lifting its grueling two-month lockdown. That is unsettling residents and raising concerns about the business impact.


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