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Beijing tests millions to stem ‘developing’ COVID cluster at 24-hour bar

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6/6

© Reuters. People line up for nucleic acid tests at a mobile testing booth, following the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in Beijing, China June 13, 2022. REUTERS/Tingshu Wang

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By Martin Quin Pollard and Ryan Woo

BEIJING (Reuters) -Authorities in China’s capital Beijing on Monday raced to contain a COVID-19 outbreak traced to a 24-hour bar known for cheap liquor and big crowds, with millions facing mandatory testing and thousands under targeted lockdowns.

The outbreak of 228 cases linked to the Heaven Supermarket Bar, which had just reopened as curbs in Beijing eased last week, highlights how hard it will be for China to make a success of its “zero COVID” policy as much of the rest of the world opts to learn how to live with the virus.

The re-emergence of infections is also raising new concerns about the outlook for the world’s second-largest economy. China is only just shaking off a heavy blow from a two-month lockdown of Shanghai, its most populous city and commercial nerve centre, that also roiled global supply chains.

“Epidemic prevention and control is at a critical juncture,” a Beijing health official, Liu Xiaofeng, told a news conference on Monday, adding that the outbreak linked to the bar in the city’s biggest district Chaoyang was “still developing”.

Authorities have described the outbreak as “ferocious” and “explosive” and said people infected live or work in 14 of the capital’s 16 districts.

Drinking and dining in most of Beijing’s establishments only resumed on June 6 after more than a month in which the city of 22 million enforced curbs including urging people to work from home, and shutting malls and parts of the transport system.

Chaoyang kicked off a three-day mass testing campaign among its roughly 3.5 million residents on Monday. About 10,000 close contacts of the bar’s patrons have been identified, and their residential buildings put under lockdown.

Some planned school reopenings in the district have been postponed.

Queues snaked around testing sites on Monday for more than 100 metres, according to Reuters’ eyewitnesses. Large metal barriers have been installed around several residential compounds, with people in hazmat suits spraying disinfectant.

Other nearby businesses under lockdown included Paradise Massage & Spa parlour. Police tape and security staff blocked the entrance to the parlour on Sunday and authorities said a handful of people would be locked in temporarily for checks.

SERIOUS CONSEQUENCES

Last week, as dine-in curbs were lifted, Heaven Supermarket Bar, modelled as a large self-service liquor store with chairs, sofas and tables, reclaimed its popularity among young, noisy crowds starved of socialising and parties during Beijing’s COVID restrictions.

The bar, where patrons check aisles to grab anything from local heavy spirits to Belgian beer, is known among Beijing revellers for its tables plastered with empty bottles, and customers falling asleep on sofas after midnight.

Officials have not commented on the exact cause of the outbreak, nor explained why they are not yet reinstating the level of curbs seen last month.

The state-backed Beijing Evening News wrote on Monday that the outbreak was caused by loopholes and complacency in epidemic prevention, and said that if it grows, “consequences could be serious, and would be such that nobody would want to see”.

China’s commercial hub Shanghai endured weeks of lockdown and COVID curbs that were only lifted at the start of the month.

There was relief among its residents on Monday after mass testing for most of its 25 million people at the weekend saw only a small rise in daily cases.

But frustrations have continued to simmer about the damage the lockdown caused, especially on residents’ livelihoods.

On Monday, shopkeepers in the city centre held up signs and shouted demands for rent refunds, according to videos widely posted on Chinese social media. The rare protest had dissipated by the time Reuters visited on Monday afternoon and there was a heavy police presence in the area.

Economy

Oil Prices Fall amid Protests in China

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Oil prices decline

Oil prices fell on Monday amid a general decline in investor appetite for risk amid information about the ongoing protests in China against vested restrictions.

The cost of January futures on Brent crude oil on London’s ICE Futures exchange was $81.31 per barrel on Monday, down $2.32 (2.77%) from the close of the previous session. At the close of trading on Friday, those contracts fell $1.71 per barrel to $83.63.

Oil prices decline – what’s going on in the market?

The price of WTI futures for January crude fell by $2.31 (3.03%) to $73.97 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange (NYMEX). By closing of previous trades, the cost of these contracts decreased by $1.66 (2.1%) to $76.28 per barrel. Brent and WTI gained 4.6% and 4.8%, respectively, last week.

According to Bloomberg, protests were held in cities across the country, including the capital Beijing, as well as Shanghai, Xinjiang, and Wuhan, which was originally the epicenter of the COVID-19 spread.

That contributes to a stronger U.S. dollar, which reduces the attractiveness of investments in crude, and also raises the possibility of even more significant tightening of restrictions by Chinese authorities, the agency said.

“The outlook for the oil market remains unfavorable and the events of this weekend in China do not add to the positive,” notes Warren Patterson, who is in charge of commodities strategy at ING Groep NV in Singapore.

According to the forecast of analytical company Kpler, oil demand in China in the fourth quarter will decrease to 15.11 million barrels per day (bpd) compared to 15.82 million bpd a year earlier.

Earlier we reported that Russia will ban the sale of its oil to countries that have imposed a price ceiling.

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Economy

Oil Russia ban news: Russia will ban the sale of its oil to countries that have imposed a price ceiling

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oil Russia ban

Will Russia sell oil to Europe? The administration of President Vladimir Putin is preparing an order prohibiting Russian companies and any trader from buying Russian oil to sell raw materials to countries and companies that have imposed a price ceiling on Moscow. Bloomberg news agency wrote this, citing a report from sources.

“The Kremlin is preparing a presidential decree banning Russian companies and any traders buying national oil from selling it to anyone who participates in the price ceiling,” the publication wrote.

According to the newspaper’s interlocutors, this would prohibit any mention of the price ceiling in contracts for Russian crude, as well as transferring it to countries that have joined the price ceiling for the natural resource.

In the first half of September, the press service of the US Treasury Department said that the USA, together with its allies from G7 (Great Britain, Germany, Italy, Canada, France and Japan) and the European Union (EU) would impose a ban on marine transportation of Russian oil on December 5 and oil products – on February 5.

Earlier we reported that EU negotiations on limiting the prices of Russian oil reached a deadlock today.

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Economy

EU talks on restrictions on Russian crude oil prices today stalled

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russian crude oil price today

Negotiations between the European Union countries about the “ceiling” of Russian crude oil prices today reached an impasse; Bloomberg reported, according to its sources.

Representatives of the bloc cannot reach an agreement on the ceiling price of Russian oil. According to the agency, the proposed European Commission limit of $65-70 per barrel, Poland and the Baltic countries believe “too generous,” while Greece and Malta, which is actively engaged in transporting fuel, do not want the limit to fall below $ 70. Recall that the Russian response to the oil price cap was negative. The Russian government has officially said that it will only sell oil at market prices.

“We are looking for ways to make this solution work and we are trying to find a common ground to implement it in a perfectly pragmatic and efficient way, while avoiding that it may cause excessive inconvenience to the European Union,” said German Chancellor Olaf Scholz.

Earlier, we reported that the SEC fined Goldman Sachs $4 million for non-compliance with ESG fund principles.

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