Authorities in Beijing have locked up residential complexes and fired officials for a new Covid-19 outbreak, with health officials warning that the risk of further escalation was “very high”.
Authorities announced 49 new cases on Monday, 36 of which were linked to the Xinfadi seafood supermarket in Fengtai district south of Beijing. The market was closed on Saturday after being identified as the center of a new group of cases.
“The risk of the epidemic spreading is very high, so we must take decisive and decisive action,” said Xu Hejian, spokesman for the Beijing city government during a press briefing on Monday. On Sunday, he said that Beijing had entered “an extraordinary period”.
The outbreak has already spread to Liaoning and Hebei provinces, where a total of five new cases have been found in close contact with patients in Beijing.
The new bloc sent shock waves all over China, as Beijing municipal government spokesman Xu Heijian described it as an “exceptional period” during a press conference on Sunday.
Chinese government media have repeatedly promoted China’s effective measures to contain the virus as the number of infections and deaths abroad has risen, in contrast to its success with the failures of Western governments, especially the United States.
Fengtai District, where the Xinfadi Market is located, announced Saturday the launch of a “wartime mechanism” and the establishment of a command center to curb the spread of the virus.
“Global Times”, a national newspaper run by the Chinese government, posted on social media a video of paramilitary police officers wearing face masks patrolling the market after it closed on Saturday.
The authorities imposed a ban on 11 housing complexes near the market, and strictly prohibited anyone from entering or leaving. Population temperatures will be checked and reported on a daily basis, and their food and daily necessities delivered.
Beijing also conducted a comprehensive DNA test for the Coronavirus, and installed 193 sampling booths throughout the city. More than 76,000 people were tested on Sunday, Shaw said, while the test result was positive for 59 people.
DNA tests work by revealing the genetic code of the virus, and they can be more effective in detecting infections, especially in the early stages, than those that examine the body’s immune response, although the latter are easier to do.
The Fengtai District collected samples from 8,950 people working in Xinfadi Market. So far, more than 6000 samples have been tested and all results are negative, according to Xu.
The outbreak in Beijing will be the latest test of the coronavirus containment strategy in China.
Hu Xi Jin, editor of Global Times, said on Twitter that Beijing would not become the second Wuhan, the epicenter of the epidemic as the coronavirus was first detected in December last year.
“There is no way to become Beijing Wuhan 2.0. The world will see China’s strong ability to control the epidemic, including strong government leadership, respect for science, and the public’s willingness to cooperate and coordinate control measures nationwide. We will win again,” he wrote in a post on Monday.
Beijing authorities are still trying to trace the source of the latest outbreak, and pledged to conduct “the most severe epidemiological investigations”.
Zhang Yuxi, head of the market, told the state-run Beijing News on Friday that the virus had been discovered on a cutting board used by the imported salmon seller in the market, which led to fears of widespread pollution. Many supermarket chains have since removed salmon from their shelves, according to the Beijing Daily.
While investigations are still underway, a researcher with the Beijing Center for Disease Prevention and Control said the genome sequence indicates that the virus on the market resembles the strains usually found in Europe.
“But it is still not certain how the virus originated. It could have come from contaminated seafood or meat or transmitted by people who entered the market through their secretions,” researcher Yang Ping told state television presenter on Sunday.