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Beijing faces ‘very high’ risk of further COVID-19 spreading

Chinese officials have warned that the risk of epidemic spreading of COVID-19 in Beijing is ‘very high’ after dozens tested positive in a fresh cluster.

The country’s Vice Premier Sun Chunlan urged the city’s officials to impose ‘the strictest’ virus control measures to stem the new outbreak, which has been linked to a massive food wholesale market called Xinfadi.

The Chinese capital, with a population of 21.5million, has locked down at least 11 neighbourhoods close to Xinfadi and launched a mass-testing programme to screen all 46,000 people who have visited the market or live nearby.

The city reported 36 new domestic cases today, all of which were linked to the trading hub.

Beijing has locked down at least 10 neighbourhoods and activated a ‘war-time mode’ after a cluster of coronavirus infections were detected in a huge food wholesale market. Pictured,  a security guard wearing a face shield and mask stands outside a Beijing hospital on Monday

The Chinese capital, with a population of 21.5million, has launched a mass-testing programme to screen those who have visited the trading hub or live nearby. Pictured, people who visited or live near Xinfadi Market use mobile phones to make an appointment for the COVID-19 test

The Chinese capital, with a population of 21.5million, has launched a mass-testing programme to screen those who have visited the trading hub or live nearby. Pictured, people who visited or live near Xinfadi Market use mobile phones to make an appointment for the COVID-19 test

China's Vice Premier Sun Chunlan urged the city's officials to impose 'the strictest' virus control measures to curb a looming new outbreak. Pictured, local residents, who visited or live near Xinfadi Market, queue for a COVID-19 test at Guang'an Sport Center in Beijing on Monday

China’s Vice Premier Sun Chunlan urged the city’s officials to impose ‘the strictest’ virus control measures to curb a looming new outbreak. Pictured, local residents, who visited or live near Xinfadi Market, queue for a COVID-19 test at Guang’an Sport Center in Beijing on Monday

The boss of the Xinfadi market on Saturday told reporters that researchers had found traces of the novel coronavirus on a chopping board used to cut imported salmon. 

The market was shut in the wee hours of Saturday to be disinfected. Officials said they were also rectifying relevant hygienic issues.

The city’s health officials claimed that the virus was likely to have been brought into the city from Europe.

A spokesperson from the Beijing Municipal Health Commission said today that health workers had given nucleic acid tests to 76,499 people and 59 of them had been diagnosed with COVID-19.

The outbreak has been traced to the city's Xinfadi (pictured), the biggest wholesale food market in Asia, where thousands of tonnes of vegetables, fruits and meats change hands daily

The outbreak has been traced to the city’s Xinfadi (pictured), the biggest wholesale food market in Asia, where thousands of tonnes of vegetables, fruits and meats change hands daily

The boss of the Xinfadi market on Saturday told reporters that researchers had found traces of the novel coronavirus on a chopping board used to cut imported salmon. Pictured, people wearing protective face masks buy groceries at the Chaowai market in Beijing on Sunday

The boss of the Xinfadi market on Saturday told reporters that researchers had found traces of the novel coronavirus on a chopping board used to cut imported salmon. Pictured, people wearing protective face masks buy groceries at the Chaowai market in Beijing on Sunday

The spate of new cases prompted officials in many parts of the city to swiftly bring back tough counter-epidemic measures, with at least three districts entering 'war-time mode'. Pictured, soldiers wearing face masks march next to the closed Xinfadi market on Saturday

The spate of new cases prompted officials in many parts of the city to swiftly bring back tough counter-epidemic measures, with at least three districts entering ‘war-time mode’. Pictured, soldiers wearing face masks march next to the closed Xinfadi market on Saturday

Beijing also recorded six asymptomatic cases today. The city currently has 79 domestic COVID-19 patients being treated in hospital.

Nationwide, the Chinese National Health Commission has reported a total of 83,181 coronavirus infections, of which 177 are active. The official death toll remains at 4,634.

Several districts in Beijing reinstated security checkpoints, ordered residents be tested and closed schools on Monday in response to the unexpected resurgence of COVID-19.

What is Beijing’s Xinfadi? China’s second virus-hit food market

The file photo shows an employee chopping pork meat at the Xinfadi wholesale market on February 19

The file photo shows an employee chopping pork meat at the Xinfadi wholesale market on February 19

Beijing city officials today have reported 36 new domestic COVID-19 cases, all linked to a major wholesale market in the city.

The Xinfadi market, located in the southern Beijing district Fengtai, became the country’s second wholesale market where the deadly virus has been detected. The first one was the Huanan seafood market in Wuhan.

It comes after the Chinese capital has recorded its first native coronavirus infection on Thursday after declaring virus-free for nearly two months.

The Xinfadi market, located in Beijing’s southern district Fengtai, is billed by Chinese media as the ‘food hub’ of the capital city.

With a size of 1.12 square kilometres (equivalent to 157 football fields), the Xinfadi market is Beijing’s largest wholesale market, supplying about 80 per cent of the city’s fresh produce.

It is also reportedly Asia’s largest wholesale market for agricultural products.

Nearly 40,000 tonnes of vegetables and fruit are traded here daily, according to state media CGTN.

The enormous trading hub is nicknamed the ‘vegetable basket’ or ‘fruit bowl’ of the capital city.      

After nearly two months with no new infections, Beijing officials have reported 79 cases over the past four days, the biggest concentration of infections since February.

The return of COVID-19 in Beijing has shrouded the city, home to the headquarters of many big corporations, in uncertainty at a time China is trying to shake off the economic torpor of the virus.

The risk of the Beijing epidemic spreading ‘is very high’, warned Chinese Vice Premier Sun Chunlan at a meeting on Sunday.

Sun said Xinfadi, the market at the centre of the cluster, had a highly dense and mobile population and therefore could prompt epidemic spreading. She urged the officials to carry out ‘resolute’ and ‘decisive’ measures to stop a possible resurgence of the virus. 

Chinese Vice Premier Sun Chunlan (pictured on May 27) warned on Sunday that the risk of COVID-19 epidemic spreading in Beijing 'is very high' and urged officials to adopt decisive measures to curb the epidemic. Officials have reported 79 cases over the past four days

Chinese Vice Premier Sun Chunlan (pictured on May 27) warned on Sunday that the risk of COVID-19 epidemic spreading in Beijing ‘is very high’ and urged officials to adopt decisive measures to curb the epidemic. Officials have reported 79 cases over the past four days

Health workers have given nucleic acid tests to 76,499 people as of today, and 59 of them have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to a spokesperson from the Beijing Municipal Health Commission. Pictured, people queue for tests at Guang'an Sports Center on June 14

Health workers have given nucleic acid tests to 76,499 people as of today, and 59 of them have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to a spokesperson from the Beijing Municipal Health Commission. Pictured, people queue for tests at Guang’an Sports Center on June 14 

The World Health Organization said on Sunday that it had been informed of the outbreak and a subsequent investigation by Chinese officials. Pictured, people queue for tests on June 14

The World Health Organization said on Sunday that it had been informed of the outbreak and a subsequent investigation by Chinese officials. Pictured, people queue for tests on June 14

The urgent order was once again highlighted today at a press conference held by the city’s government.

‘The risk of the epidemic spreading is very high, so we should take resolute and decisive measures,’ Xu Hejiang, a spokesman at the Beijing city government, instructed.

The outbreak has been traced to the city’s Xinfadi, the biggest wholesale food market in Asia, where thousands of tonnes of vegetables, fruits and meats change hands each day.

A complex of warehouses and trading halls spanning an area the size of nearly 160 football pitches, Xinfadi is more than 20 times larger than the seafood market in Wuhan where the outbreak was first identified.

The spate of new cases prompted officials in many parts of the city to swiftly bring back tough counter-epidemic measures, with at least three districts entering ‘war-time mode’.

A new cluster of cases in Beijing has been linked to the Xinfadi wholesale market (pictured)

A new cluster of cases in Beijing has been linked to the Xinfadi wholesale market (pictured)

Customers wearing face masks buy pork meat at the Xinfadi market in Beijing on February 19

Customers wearing face masks buy pork meat at the Xinfadi market in Beijing on February 19

A complex of warehouses and trading halls spanning an area the size of nearly 160 football pitches, Xinfadi is more than 20 times larger than the virus-hit seafood market in Wuhan

A complex of warehouses and trading halls spanning an area the size of nearly 160 football pitches, Xinfadi is more than 20 times larger than the virus-hit seafood market in Wuhan

Measures imposed included erecting round-the-clock security checkpoints, closing schools and sports venues, and reinstating temperature checks at malls, supermarkets and office buildings.

Some districts also dispatched officials to residential compounds in what they described as a ‘knock, knock’ operation to identify people who have visited Xinfadi or been in contact with somebody who has.

Beijing began testing on masse on Sunday, conducting tens of thousands of examinations.

China claims Beijing’s coronavirus strain came from Europe

China claimed that the source of Beijing’s fresh coronavirus outbreak had come from Europe. 

An official claimed that the genome sequencing of the virus strain found inside the market originated in Europe.

But the authority said they were still trying to unravel how the virus was transmitted to the Xinfadi wholesale market.

The file photo shows a worker in protective suit checking the temperature of a truck driver entering the Xinfadi wholesale market on February 19

The file photo shows a worker in protective suit checking the temperature of a truck driver entering the Xinfadi wholesale market on February 19

‘There are two possibilities [as to how the virus got into the market],’ Yang Peng, a researcher from Beijing Centre for Diseases Prevention and Control told state broadcaster CCTV on Sunday. 

‘One is possibly through contaminated seafood or meat [imported from abroad]. The epidemic in other countries is still very severe,’ Yang added. 

The other theory is that the virus was brought into the market by customers, according to the official.

But the Chinese health authority is yet to release any scientific evidence to support their findings. 

Samples of 8,950 people who were identified as recently being at Xinfadi had been collected as of early Monday, said Gao Xiaojun, a spokesperson for the Beijing public health commission, at Monday’s briefing. Results from the 6,075 tested so far were negative, Gao said.

A vegetable wholesaler at Xinfadi said he had to stay in quarantine for 14 days at a designated hotel even after his test was negative.

‘I’ve to take another test after the 14 days,’ he said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Beijing began testing on masse on Sunday, conducting tens of thousands of examinations. Pictured, people wearing protective face masks to help curb the spread of the new coronavirus line up outside a health centre to get the nucleic acid test in Beijing on Monday

Beijing began testing on masse on Sunday, conducting tens of thousands of examinations. Pictured, people wearing protective face masks to help curb the spread of the new coronavirus line up outside a health centre to get the nucleic acid test in Beijing on Monday

Governments in some other cities and provinces warned their residents against non-essential travel to the capital and implemented isolation protocols for some visitors from Beijing. Pictured, residents who visited Beijing recently queue up for a swab test in Nanjing on Monday

Governments in some other cities and provinces warned their residents against non-essential travel to the capital and implemented isolation protocols for some visitors from Beijing. Pictured, residents who visited Beijing recently queue up for a swab test in Nanjing on Monday

A man who visited Beijing recently is pictured being tested for the COVID-19 coronavirus in Nanjing in China's eastern Jiangsu province on June 15

A man who visited Beijing recently is pictured being tested for the COVID-19 coronavirus in Nanjing in China’s eastern Jiangsu province on June 15

The World Health Organization said on Sunday that it had been informed of the outbreak and a subsequent investigation by Chinese officials.

‘WHO understands that genetic sequences will be released as soon as possible once further laboratory analyses are completed,’ it said in a statement.

An epidemiologist with the Beijing government said on Sunday a DNA sequencing of the virus showed the Xinfadi outbreak could have come from Europe.

Yang Peng, a researcher from the Beijing Center for Disease Control and Prevention, told state TV preliminary tests showed that the virus had been ‘imported’ into Beijing. However, experts were still trying to find out how the virus had arrived. 

Governments in some other cities and provinces warned their residents against non-essential travel to the capital and implemented isolation protocols for some visitors from Beijing.

Wang Xiaoyang, who works in public relations in the southern boomtown of Shenzhen, said she received a text message from local authorities telling her to stay at home for 14 days after returning from Beijing on Friday.

The north-eastern Liaoning province and northern Hebei province reported a combined handful of cases connected to the Beijing infections. Sichuan in the southwest reported one suspected case.

Baoding, a highly industrialised city in Hebei about 150 kilometres (93 miles) southwest of Beijing, was closely monitoring entry.

‘Every gate to Baoding should be strictly guarded to prevent the contagion from spreading in the city,’ state media quoted Baoding officials as saying.

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