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Mahjong, poker venues targeted amid new cases

By CANG WEI in Nanjing | CHINA DAILY | Updated: 2021-08-04 08:27
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A medical worker works at a nucleic acid testing spot in Nanjing, capital of East China's Jiangsu province, July 21, 2021. [Photo/Xinhua]

Official says 40 patients in Jiangsu's Yangzhou found to have visited sites

To contain the spread of COVID-19, Jiangsu province has suspended 45,371 mahjong and poker lounges, the province's Information Office said on Tuesday.

Zhou Minghao, deputy director of the provincial health commission, said at a news conference on Tuesday that about 64 percent of the 94 locally transmitted cases reported in Yangzhou involved mahjong enthusiasts, and the rest were their close contacts.

On Tuesday, Yangzhou, a popular tourist city, saw 40 new locally transmitted COVID-19 cases, mostly involving elderly mahjong enthusiasts.

"Most of them are senior people age 60 and above," Zhou said.

He said that all those confirmed to be infected in Yangzhou have been sent to Nanjing, the provincial capital, for treatment, including the "patient zero" who transmitted the virus from Nanjing to Yangzhou.

That patient, a 64-year-old woman surnamed Mao, is suspected of impeding the prevention of infectious diseases and is under investigation.

Mao arrived in Yangzhou on July 21 from Nanjing, which had already banned people in COVID-19 risk areas from leaving the city.

Without reporting to the community where she lived in Yangzhou, Mao frequented many local restaurants, stores, walk-in clinics, farm product markets and mahjong lounges in the following six days.

She visited a hospital due to cough and fever on July 27 and was confirmed the next day as having Yangzhou's first locally transmitted case of COVID-19. However, she still refused to share her travel history when police launched an investigation.

Mao's neglect of regulations resulted in COVID-19 spreading widely in downtown areas of Yangzhou and has had severe ramifications, according to police.

Yangzhou, in the interest of timely epidemic intervention, has offered a reward of up to 10,000 yuan ($1,550) for information that leads to locating people who played mahjong in three lounges where people who have confirmed COVID-19 cases had registered.

Anyone reporting a person playing mahjong in the three lounges will be rewarded 5,000 yuan, while an additional 5,000 yuan will be given if the person who is reported is confirmed to be infected with the virus.

Jiang Yan, a teacher from one of Yangzhou's top elementary schools, said she was not too optimistic about the city's prevention work.

"I don't think that the virus can be contained soon," she said. "I know that many of the senior people in Yangzhou don't take preventive measures seriously. Some of them don't wear masks, nor do they possess a smartphone that can allow telecommunications companies to trace them.

"Some even refuse to admit that they've been to mahjong lounges, because they are afraid that their children might blame them for going to risky places and bringing the virus home," Jiang said.

Zhou, the health official, said that experts have been sent to Yangzhou, Huai'an and Suqian to help with the prevention and control work. Health workers across the province will be sent to Yangzhou to help conduct nucleic acid tests.

On Monday, Jiangsu reported 45 locally transmitted cases. The province has reported 220 locally transmitted cases since July 20.

Local authorities reported six cases on Monday in Hunan province, three in Hubei province, two each in Henan and Yunnan provinces, and one each in Beijing, Shanghai and Fujian province, the National Health Commission said on Tuesday.

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