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China races to control new COVID-19 outbreak in wholesale food market

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China‘s capital city is racing to control a fresh coronavirus outbreak, with 75 cases linked to a single wholesale food market in Beijing where authorities have locked down neighbourhoods and launched a massive test and trace programme.

Japan Today reports that the outbreak in China – where the disease first emerged last year – had largely been brought under control until a fresh batch of cases was detected in the capital last week. Health officials reported 49 new coronavirus cases nationwide on Monday, including 36 more in Beijing where a cluster linked to the Xinfadi market has fuelled fears of a second wave of infections.

City official Li Junjie is quoted in the report as saying that cases had also been found at the Yuquandong wholesale market in the capital’s north-western Haidian district. As a result, that market had been closed and nearby schools would be shut, while people living in 10 housing estates around it would be forbidden from leaving their homes, he said. It was not immediately clear how many households were under the new lockdowns, but the orders will affect thousands of people.

Japan Today reports that the capital has begun mass testing workers from the Xinfadi food market, as well as those who live nearby and anyone who visited it in recent weeks. Authorities are also stepping up efforts to trace people who have visited the Xinfadi market, with companies and neighbourhood communities messaging staff and residents to ask about their recent movements.

 

Scores of flights to and from Beijing have been cancelled, schools shut and some neighbourhoods blocked off as officials ramped up efforts to contain the outbreak, reports Reuters Health. Health officials reported 31 new confirmed infections for 16 June, bringing the cumulative infections since Thursday to 137 cases, the worst resurgence of the disease in Beijing since early February.

While the city’s roads and highways were still open and companies and factories were not ordered to stop work, authorities stepped up measures to control movement around and to and from the city on Wednesday. Aviation data tracker Variflight showed about 60% of scheduled flights to and from Beijing Capital International Airport have been or will likely be cancelled as of Wednesday afternoon.

According to Reuters Health, state media reported that rail officials were granting full refunds on all tickets to and from Beijing, an apparent bid to discourage people from travelling even though services have not been officially cancelled. All outbound taxi and car-hailing services and some long-distance bus routes were cancelled on Tuesday, when officials put the city back on a level two alert, the second-highest level in a four-tier COVID-19 emergency response system. That reversed a downgrade from level two to level three a mere 10 days earlier.

The report says some 27 neighbourhoods were designated as medium-risk areas, where people entering are subjected to temperature checks and registration. One area near the massive wholesale food centre detected as the source of the outbreak was marked as high-risk, quarantining residents. Kindergartens, primary schools and high schools across Beijing were shut, while some restaurants, bars and night clubs also closed.

Outside of Beijing, Reuters Health reports that Hebei, Liaoning, Sichuan and Zhejiang provinces have reported new cases linked to Xinfadi. Concerned about contagion, some provinces imposed quarantine requirements on visitors from Beijing, including Heilongjiang, which only recently brought a local outbreak under control.

Authorities in Macau, the world’s biggest casino hub, also demanded arrivals from Beijing undergo a 14-day quarantine.

 

Full Japan Today report

 

 

Full Reuters Health report

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