Beijing Virus Cases Remain Elevated in Threat to Covid Zero

  • Capital reports more than 50 cases for fifth day in a row
  • Criminal probe opened into bar at center of latest outbreak

Beijing recorded more than 50 Covid cases for the fifth day in a row as authorities crack down on venues linked to the outbreak, including starting a criminal probe into management of a bar at the center of the latest flareup.

The capital reported 63 infections for Tuesday, following 74 on Monday. Cases have spiked in recent days, having dropped to single-digits last week. The management of a bar that has been linked to at least 287 cases is under criminal investigation for potentially breaching Covid control and prevention protocols.

Shops and restaurants in the Sanlitun area of the Chaoyang district in eastern Beijing, where the bar is located, have been closed since Monday. With daily cases remaining high, authorities may be prompted to delay Thursday’s planned reopening. At least two shopping malls in Chaoyang were also temporarily shut as infected people appear to have visited restaurants there.

The jump in cases and reinstatement of restrictions just days after they started to be eased shows the difficulties of stamping out the more contagious virus variants, as China continues to prosecute its Covid Zero strategy. The approach leaves the country stuck in a cycle of disruptive shutdowns and tentative reopenings that hint at lingering economic pain.

In Beijing, most schools delayed a reopening that was planned for Monday, while all sports competitions were halted. Authorities earlier this week closed more bars, movie theaters, gyms and other venues deemed to be “potential magnifiers” of the outbreak.

Shanghai reported 15 cases for Tuesday, from 17 on Monday. Three of the infections were found outside government-mandated quarantine as the virus continues to percolate in the community. The city’s Songjiang district will conduct another round of mass testing on Wednesday.

While the majority of US businesses in Shanghai have resumed operations following the city’s tough coronavirus lockdown, their levels of activity are well-below normal due to continued restrictions on movement, a survey of about 130 firms by the American Chamber of Commerce in Shanghai showed.

While cases in two of the country’s most important cities are still below levels seen in late May, when stricter curbs were in place, authorities have been quick to re-impose limitations after earlier trumpeting their success in bringing the outbreak under control.

Data released Wednesday pointed to a mixed economic recovery. Retail sales, while better than April’s plunge, slid 6.7% year-on-year as regular virus testing and other stringent controls continued to hinder consumer activity. Industrial output rose, reversing from a drop last month, while the property market continued to slump.

China is continuing to try to wipe out cases, even as most of the rest of the world treats the virus as endemic and opens up their borders and economies.

In a sign of the hard-line approach China is taking with the virus, a court in the northwestern city of Xining sentenced one person to three years in prison and punished two others for breaking infectious disease prevention laws after they returned from Shanghai in late March.

Source: Bloomberg

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