Beijing investigates 24-hour bar blamed for Covid outbreak

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Beijing’s authorities have launched an investigation into a 24-hour bar that they believe to be at the centre of a cluster of more than 250 Covid-19 cases in China’s capital since last week.

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A joint team from an array of local government departments will investigate and deal with the Heaven Supermarket bar “quickly, strictly and seriously”, the state-backed Beijing Daily reported.

All of the city’s bars, nightclubs, karaoke venues, internet cafes and other entertainment venues are being inspected, the paper reported. All those in underground spaces are being shut and epidemic prevention work in the city is being “tightened”.

The paper has repeatedly pointed the finger at an individual, dubbed Patient No 1,991, for triggering the flare-up. Careless behaviour has turned the individual into the “propagator” of the outbreak, the paper said on Tuesday.

Authorities in the city of 22 million say the individual did not take any Covid-19 test between 26 May and 8 June, despite visiting a number of restaurants, bars and crowded places during the period.

The patient developed a fever by the evening of 8 June, two days after a visit to the 24-hour bar at the centre of the current cluster.

Despite the fever, the individual returned to the bar in the small hours of 9 June, the day on which a handful of other bar patrons were found to have become infected.

Authorities are under pressure as the outbreak linked to the bar has left millions facing mandatory testing and thousands under targeted lockdowns and comes just days after a more than month-long partial lockdown ended in the city.

The announcement of the investigation came a day after state media reported that the vice premier, Sun Chunlan, visited the bar and said it was necessary to strengthen Covid prevention and control of key places.

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People infected in the outbreak live or work in 14 of the capital’s 16 districts, authorities have said.

Drinking and dining in most of Beijing’s establishments resumed on 6 June after the city enforced curbs including urging people to work from home and shutting malls and parts of the transport system.

On Monday, Chaoyang, the city’s largest district where the Heaven Supermarket bar is located, launched a three-day mass testing campaign for its 3.5 million residents. About 10,000 close contacts of the bar’s patrons have been identified and their residential buildings put under lockdown.

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