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Parts of Beijing locked down after dozens of people test positive for Covid-19

A new cluster is linked to a wholesale food market.

People stop at a checkpoint outside the Xinfadi wholesale food market district in Beijing today.
People stop at a checkpoint outside the Xinfadi wholesale food market district in Beijing today.
Image: Mark Schiefelbein/AP/Press Association Images

DOZENS OF PEOPLE tested positive for Covid-19 in Beijing as parts of the city were locked down today after the emergence of a new cluster linked to a wholesale food market.

People were ordered to stay home at 11 residential estates in south Beijing’s Fengtai district and the nearby Xinfadi market was closed as authorities raced to contain the outbreak that has fuelled fears of a resurgence in local transmission.

Most of the six new domestic infections reported today were linked to the meat and vegetable market, the National Health Commission said.

But another 45 asymptomatic cases — which China counts separately — were detected after mass testing of nearly 2,000 workers at the market yesterday, city health official Pang Xinghuo later told reporters.

They have been placed under medical observation, Pang said.

Another worker tested positive at a farmers’ market in the city’s northwestern district of Haidian. They were a close contact of one of the confirmed cases linked to Xinfadi.

Beijing’s first Covid-19 case in two months, announced on Thursday, had visited Xinfadi market last week and had no recent travel history outside the city.

Wuhan 

China’s domestic outbreak had been brought largely under control through vast, strict lockdowns that were imposed after the disease was first detected in the central city of Wuhan late last year.

These measures had mostly been lifted as the infection rate dropped, and the majority of cases reported in recent months were citizens living abroad who were tested as they returned home during the pandemic.

Among the six new domestic cases announced today were three Xinfadi market workers, one market visitor and two employees at the China Meat Research Centre, 7km away. One of the employees had visited the market last week.

Authorities closed the market, along with another seafood market visited by one of the patients, for disinfection and sample collection yesterday. 

AFP reporters saw hundreds of police officers and dozens of paramilitary police deployed at the two markets, with no one allowed to leave Xinfadi.

Workers were seen hauling several crates of seafood out of Jingshen seafood market, also in Fengtai district.

Officials in Fengtai — which has more than two million residents — announced today that the district has established a “wartime mechanism” and “field command centre” to deal with the fresh wave.

Nine nearby schools and kindergartens have been closed. Yesterday, Beijing delayed the return of students to primary schools across the city, and suspended all sporting events and group dining.

Cross-provincial tour groups have also been suspended.

Mass testing 

The chairman of the Xinfadi market told state-run Beijing News that the virus was detected on chopping boards used to handle imported salmon, stoking fears over the hygiene of the city’s food supply.

Beijing’s market supervision authorities ordered a city-wide food safety inspection focusing on fresh and frozen meat, poultry and fish in supermarkets, warehouses and catering services.

Major supermarket chains including Wumart and Carrefour removed all stocks of salmon overnight in the capital, but said supplies of other products would not be affected, Beijing Daily reported today.

Some Beijing restaurants were not serving any salmon on Saturday, according to AFP reporters.

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This morning, community volunteers in various Beijing districts knocked on residents’ doors to ask if they had recently visited Xinfadi market.

Beijing authorities also announced a mass Covid-19 testing campaign of anyone who has had “close contact” with the Xinfadi market since 30 May, after they tested over 5,000 environmental samples from farmers’ markets and large supermarkets across the city on Friday. Of those, all 40 positive samples came from Xinfadi market.

© AFP 2020

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