Nightclub virus cluster triggers new Beijing crackdown

BEIJING — China’s capital has brought the school online again in one of its top districts amid a new COVID-19 outbreak linked to a nightclub, while life has yet to return to normal in Shanghai despite the lifting of a lockdown of more than two months.

China has maintained its “zero-COVID” policy by requiring mass testing, quarantines and the kidnapping of anyone who has come into contact with an infected person in concentrated locations where hygiene is often poor.

A total of 228 cases have been linked to the Heaven Supermarket club in the downtown nightlife area of ​​Workers Stadium after an infected person visited the venue on Thursday. Of these, 180 were customers, four were employees and 44 were people with whom the customers had later contact.

The entire area, along with the adjacent Sanlitun shopping and dining complex, has been closed until further notice.

The outbreak has prompted authorities in the sprawling Chaoyang district to bring schools back online, with the exception of students taking placement exams in elementary and middle school. Sporting events in the city were also suspended.

Chaoyang, which is home to more than 3 million people, has ordered three consecutive days of mass testing, with long lines forming and waiting times of two hours or more in some places.

In the city of Shanghai, 502 people were associated with three positive tests detected on Thursday among customers of the Red Rose Beauty Salon. The individuals involved come from 15 districts in the city of 25 million people, triggering the first large-scale restrictions since the lockdown was formally lifted on June 1.

With mass testing and restrictions on movement back in place, streets and supermarkets emptied again over the weekend.

Failure to take the test will lead to a code yellow on a person’s health status app, banning access to all public places.

Most students stay at home and all but a few restaurants are open for takeout only. Many customers simply eat and drink on the steps beside flower bushes outside the establishments.

While 22 million Shanghai residents were released from lockdown nearly two weeks ago, 220,000 people are still restricted to their homes under a rule that requires no positive cases be found in their residential complexes for more than 10 days. Another 600,000 are in control zones, where their movement is restricted within their complexes.

Corrugated steel fences and other barriers continue to block neighborhoods and businesses, leading to more discontent and complaints from residents who remain confined.

The strict implementation of lockdowns, coupled with a lack of information and poor distribution of food and other daily necessities, has led to rarely seen manifestations of anger and despair. Residents confronted workers and police officers who have become known as “big whites” for the protective gear they wear, circulated protest videos online, and coordinated nightly events of screaming and pot crashing to vent.

The loosening of restrictions led to an exodus of non-Shanghai residents, including foreigners, who were trapped in the lockdown.

Despite the recent outbreak, Beijing reported just 51 new cases on Monday, 22 of them asymptomatic. City residents are still undergoing regular testing – particularly every other day – and must wear masks and use a cellphone app to enter public places and facilitate case tracking.

China has maintained its “zero-COVID” policy despite considerable economic costs and an assertion by the head of the World Health Organization that the policy is not sustainable.

Nationwide, China has reported just 143 cases, almost all in Beijing and Shanghai. The death toll from the outbreak in mainland China remained static at 5,226.


Associated Press researcher Si Chen in Shanghai contributed to this report.

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