Officials in Beijing have identified a key suspect in the city’s latest Covid-19 cluster – now totalling more than 250 cases – centred on the Heaven Supermarket bar, which has led to three days of mass testing in the Chinese capital.
Patient No. 1,991, as he is known, has been admonished by the Beijing Daily and other state papers for triggering the flare-up.
His crime? Failing to take a Covid test for nearly two weeks, between May 26 and June 8, despite visiting a number of restaurants, bars and crowded places during that period.
A team of local government officials investigating the 24-hour bar are looking to deal with the issue “quickly, strictly and seriously,” the media outlet said on Tuesday.
All of Beijing’s bars, nightclubs, karaoke venues, internet cafes and other places of entertainment are being inspected, the paper said, and those in underground spaces are being shut as epidemic prevention work is “tightened.”
The paper has repeatedly pointed the finger at Patient No. 1,991, saying his careless behaviour made him a “propagator” of the outbreak.
The patient developed a fever by the evening of June 8, two days after a visit to the 24-hour bar at the centre of the current cluster.
Despite the fever, he returned to the bar in the small hours of June 9, the day on which a handful of other bar patrons were found to have become infected.
Millions Face Testing
Authorities are under pressure as the outbreak linked to the bar has left millions facing mandatory testing and thousands under targeted lockdowns. It comes just days after the city ended a partial lockdown that had run for more than a month.
News of the investigation came a day after state media reported Vice Premier Sun Chunlan visited the bar and said it was necessary to strengthen Covid prevention and control of key places.
People infected in the outbreak live or work in 14 of the capital’s 16 districts, authorities have said.
Drinking and dining in most establishments in the city only resumed on June 6, after more than a month of measures such as exhortations to work from home, along with closures of malls and stretches of the transport system.
Chaoyang, the city’s largest district in which the bar is located, began a three-day mass testing campaign on Monday for its roughly 3.5 million residents.
About 10,000 close contacts of the bar’s patrons have been identified, and their residential buildings put under lockdown.
• Reuters with additional editing by Jim Pollard