One of the wholesale food markets linked to new cluster of infections in Beijing, China Photo: CGTN

Coronavirus: Beijing begins mass testing as new cluster prompts lockdowns

* Fresh cluster linked to wholesale food market in the capital

* Authorities order a city-wide food safety inspection of consumables

Web Editor | ConsumerConnect

China’s cultural, economic and communications centre and capital Beijing has carried out mass testing for the novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) epidemic sequel to a new outbreak in the city, prompting travel warnings across the country amid fears of a resurgence of the disease.

Agency report Sunday, June 14 said that the deadly contagion had been brought largely under control in the country through strict lockdowns that were imposed early this year, but have since been lifted.

Report indicated that a fresh cluster linked to a wholesale food market in the capital has sparked widespread alarm and raised the spectre of recourse to painful restrictions.

On Sunday, the National Health Commission (NHC) reported 57 new infections of which 36 were local transmissions in Beijing, all linked to the Xinfadi market, according to AFP.

Two other domestic infections were in northeastern Liaoning province and were close contacts of the Beijing cases.

The 19 other infections were among Chinese nationals returning from overseas.

Liaoning was among several provinces to advise residents against travelling to Beijing due to the new outbreak — along with cities such as nearby Tianjin and several in Hebei province, which surrounds Beijing.

State media was quoted to have informed that some local authorities said people entering from Beijing would have to quarantine.

In the capital, lockdowns have been imposed on a very small part of the city that includes 11 residential estates near the market which supplies most of the city’s fresh produce.

Report further stated that officials Sunday said they planned to carry out virus tests on 46,000 residents in the area surrounding the market and had set up 24 testing stations.

Everyone who works at Xinfadi also has to undergo testing.

So far 10,881 people have been tested in the area with another eight cases diagnosed on Sunday. They were not included in the NHC’s tally earlier in the day that covered the previous 24 hours, report said.

The meat section of the huge, sprawling market was closed Sunday and AFP reporters saw hundreds of police officers and security personnel plus dozens of paramilitary police blocking access.

Efforts to trace those who had visited the market have begun, with companies and neighbourhood communities messaging staff and residents across the city to ask about their recent movements.

A vegetable market adjacent to Xinfadi was open Sunday and trucks were arriving to deliver or collect stock.

In connection with the current food fears in the country, it is recalled that COVID-19 first emerged late last year and one of the first clusters was from a market in the central city of Wuhan that sold wild animals for meat.

The latest outbreak in Beijing has turned the spotlight on the hygiene of the city’s food supply chain.

State-run media reported that the virus was detected on chopping boards used to handle imported salmon, and that major supermarkets had removed the fish from their stocks.

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

One trader surnamed Sun, selling tomatoes and cherries at a central food market said there were fewer customers than normal.

“People are scared,” he said.

City authorities have closed nine schools and kindergartens near Xinfadi, while sporting events and cross-provincial tour groups have been stopped.

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