Underground mahjong parlours source of China's latest Covid-19 outbreak

Patient zero is a 64-year-old woman who visited multiple mahjong parlours before testing positive.

Low Jia Ying | August 12, 2021, 06:07 PM

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Underground mahjong parlours in China have been identified as the culprit behind the latest Covid-19 outbreak there, according to Bloomberg.

The city of Yangzhou in China's Jiangsu province is battling a surge in delta variant cases after a 64-year-old woman visited multiple mahjong dens in the city before testing positive for the virus, reported South China Morning Post.

64 per cent of new cases linked to mahjong parlours

According to the Global Times, since the outbreak began on Jul. 28, Yangzhou has reported 448 cases as of Aug. 11.

The woman had travelled from Nanjing, a nearby city where the delta variant first emerged in China, to Yangzhou, where she visited several "chess and card rooms" to play mahjong, reported Bloomberg.

A week after she tested positive for the virus, almost 100 people in Yangzhou were diagnosed with Covid-19.

Some 64 per cent of these people were linked to the mahjong parlours, and almost 70 per cent of those infected were aged 60 and above.

The low vaccination rates among elderly in Yangzhou -- 40 per cent -- helped to contribute to the mass outbreak, according to Bloomberg.

Authorities clamping down on mahjong and poker dens

Since the discovery of the cluster, authorities in Jiangsu province have suspended 45,371 mahjong and poker dens on Aug. 3, China Daily reported.

Beijing, Henan, Zhejiang, Hunan and Heilongjiang have shut down these dens as well, according to Bloomberg.

These "chess and card rooms" are typically poorly ventilated, with hundreds of elderly gathering in small spaces to play mahjong, reported Bloomberg.

Woman investigated for hiding itinerary

The 64-year-old woman, who is patient zero of the Yangzhou outbreak, is currently being investigated by Yangzhou police for hiding her itinerary from authorities, according to Global Times.

According to China Daily, the woman, surnamed Mao, illegally left her home in Nanjing on Jul. 21 to travel to her relative's house in Yangzhou.

Travel out of Nanjing had been banned because of a local surge in cases in the city.

Over the next six days, she frequented numerous public spaces including restaurants, stores, clinics, markets, and mahjong lounges.

Even after she tested positive for the virus after developing symptoms on Jul. 27, she refused to share details of her travel history with police, reported China Daily.

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