China Orders New Cinema Closures Amid Rise in COVID-19 Cases

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China has shuttered a portion of cinemas in top movie-going province Guangdong after what reports said may be the country’s first community outbreak of the Indian COVID-19 variant. Reports did not state exactly how many cinemas have been affected.

The theater closures come days after U.S. cinema chains, including AMC, Regal and Cinemark announced they would no longer require fully vaccinated guests to wear face masks. China’s preventative measures come in response to 50 new cases logged nationwide over Sunday and Monday. In comparison, more than 5,600 new COVID-19 cases emerged in the U.S. on Monday alone.

While 19 of the 50 new cases were brought into China by people traveling from abroad, 31 originated locally, all in Guangdong province, and are thus of greater concern. Most of the cases were found in the provincial capital of Guangzhou, home to 15 million residents, and nearby Foshan city, population 7 million.

Guangzhou’s municipal culture, tourism and sports bureaus on Monday ordered high-risk districts to shutter all indoor public entertainment and cultural venues for the foreseeable future. Such establishments include cinemas, theaters, internet cafes, KTVs, libraries, museums and galleries.

Authorities also ordered the cancellation or postponement of all in-person culture and tourism-related activities that would gather people together in groups, and shuttered indoor tourist attractions and dining at hotels. Sports stadiums and pools have also shuttered.

Cinemas and other indoor entertainment venues remain limited to 75% their max capacity in Guangzhou’s lower risk districts, as they are elsewhere in the country.

The theater closures are thus not likely widespread enough to significantly impact upcoming box office figures, as long as the outbreak remains contained.

Guangdong authorities have also grounded hundreds of flights in and out of the province, home to one of the world’s busiest airports, and imposed other ground transit restrictions. Certain neighborhoods are now under strict lockdown measures, with only a single family member allowed out of residence compounds each day.

As of May 31, China had a total of 91,122 confirmed COVID-19 cases and a death toll of 4,636. In Guangdong province, there have been 2,468 cases and just eight deaths since the start of the pandemic.

The U.S. has had upwards of 33 million cases nationwide and nearly 600,000 deaths.

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