BEIJING, China — A Beijing government official declared China’s capital in an “extremely severe” coronavirus situation. 27 new infections reported in Beijing, previously considered among the country’s safest cities, sparked alarm as China has largely brought its outbreak under control through mass testing and lockdowns imposed earlier this year.
The COVID-19 resurgence is believed to have started at a sprawling wholesale food market, Xinfadi, accounting for 80% of Beijing’s farm produce supply sourced both domestically and from overseas. The market has been shut as tens of thousands of nearby residents are being tested for the virus, and a city-wide campaign contact tracing has been launched.
“The epidemic situation in the capital is extremely severe.”Xu hejian, beijing city spokesman
The World Health Organization has expressed concern about the cluster and has reinforced the need for thorough investigations. “Genetic sequencing from humans and environmental samples is ongoing, and WHO encourages the release of these sequences as soon as possible,” WHO said in its statement. “WHO understands that genetic sequences will be released as soon as possible once further laboratory analyses are completed.”
CNN reported that 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.
Over the past five days, the new cases took the number of confirmed infections in Beijing to 106. Authorities imposed a lockdown on 11 residential compounds in the vicinity of the market and enforced a lockdown almost 30 communities in the city, strictly prohibiting anyone from entering or leaving. Residents will have their temperatures checked and reported on a daily basis, and their food and daily necessities delivered. A number of neighborhoods in the west and southwest of the capital have been declared to be at medium risk, including Financial Street where banks and financial firms converge, calling for measures such as stric control of movements, disinfections and temperature checks. One neighborhood has already been declared as high-risk due to its sever level of infection.
Officials of Beijing said that they will test stall owners and managers at all of the city’s food markets, restaurants and government canteens. According to China’s official news agency, Xinhua, the capital’s testing capacity has been expanded to 90,000 a day. Beijing also rolled out mass nucleic acid testing for the coronavirus, setting up 193 sampling booths across the city. More than 76,000 people were tested on Sunday, with 59 people testing positive, Xu said at a news conference on Monday.
According to GMA news online, an epidemiologist with the Beijing government said on Sunday that DNA sequencing of the virus showed that the Xinfadi outbreak may have originated from Europe.
“Our preliminary assessment is the virus came from overseas. We still can’t determine how it got here. It might’ve been on contaminated seafood or meat, or spread from the feces of people inside the market.”Yang peng