Beijing Steps Up Measures as Virus Spike Fuels Second Wave Fears
Beijing ramped up emergency response measures Sunday after a spike in new coronavirus cases on Saturday to the highest daily total on record deepened fears of an emerging new wave of infections.
Authorities raised the public health risk levels of multiple communities in the 21 million-strong city after the municipal health commission said (link in Chinese) in a Sunday morning notice that 36 new cases of Covid-19 were confirmed on Saturday, the most since authorities began publishing daily figures. One additional asymptomatic case was recorded.
In a later press conference, the municipal information office said a further eight cases were logged between midnight and 7 a.m. Sunday.
Beijing has recorded a spike in new coronavirus cases since Thursday, when the capital confirmed its first new infections in nearly two months. Most of the cases are linked to a wholesale market in the southwestern district of Fengtai.
The new cases bring the capital’s total number of Covid-19 infections to 471. The death toll remained unchanged at nine.
Authorities are in the process of testing more than 10,000 workers at the Xinfadi wholesale market, where the virus was reportedly found on produce and utensils, including the chopping boards used to slice imported salmon. Nearly 6,000 throat swabs screened so far had all come back negative, according to the municipal information bureau.
Health workers have also tested nearly a quarter of the 46,000 residents living near the market for the coronavirus, the bureau said. It appealed for people who had recently been to the market to submit themselves for testing.
Parts of Fengtai imposed local lockdowns over the weekend to prevent the cluster of infections from spreading further. Other areas of Beijing, including the whole of western Xicheng District, raised their emergency response levels.
The capital has effectively banned tourism and canceled sports events.
Local media outlet Beijing News reported (link in Chinese) Sunday that 27 of the 36 cases identified on Saturday work at Xinfadi.
The market supplies 80% of the capital’s agricultural products and shifts thousands of tons of meat, fruit and vegetables daily, according to its official website. China’s initial coronavirus outbreak is believed to have started at a wholesale market in the central city of Wuhan.
The deputy chief of Beijing’s market supervision bureau, Chen Yankai, warned Sunday that the closure of the Xinfadi market could cause minor disruptions to Beijing’s food supply, potentially leading to price fluctuations. He urged the city’s residents not to hoard essential goods.
Spot checks across Beijing’s wholesale, supermarket and grocery store sectors had so far not produced more virus samples, the municipal information office said.
Overall, China recorded 57 new coronavirus cases on Saturday, the highest one-day figure for two months. Of those, 38 were locally transmitted, according to a Sunday announcement (link in Chinese) by the National Health Commission.
The country also logged a further nine asymptomatic cases, one suspected case and no new deaths. China does not include asymptomatic individuals, who have the virus but display no signs of illness, as confirmed cases.
The cumulative number of Covid-19 cases in China is now 84,729, including 4,645 deaths.
Globally, the virus has infected 7.8 million people and killed 430,000, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University using official figures.
Contact reporter Matthew Walsh (email@example.com)
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