After nearly two months of no reported infections, Beijing is experiencing a new outbreak tied to a local market

By Maria Pasquini
June 15, 2020 04:20 PM
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Line for testing in Beijing
| Credit: Lintao Zhang/Getty

A new coronavirus outbreak tied to a large market in Beijing has caused authorities to take swift and serious action in an attempt to prevent further spread of the virus.

There have been a total of 79 new coronavirus cases reported in Beijing since June 11, when the first case linked with the Xinfadi market was discovered, according to the country's National Health Commission.

On June 11, it was announced that a 52-year-old man who had visited the market — which sells fruit, vegetables and meat — on June 3, had tested positive, The Guardian reported. The following day, the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention said that two quality-control workers had also tested positive, according to The Washington Post.

Prior to the June 11 case, there had not been any reported instances of a locally transmitted infection in Beijing for almost two months.

The outbreak has since spread to two neighboring provinces, according to CBS News. Local health authorities said the new cases had been in close contact with Beijing patients.

In response to the outbreak, local authorities are ramping up testing and re-adopting lockdown measures.

Over 77,000 people were tested on Sunday, and Beijing municipal authorities have said that an additional 200,000 were expected to be tested on Monday, according to the Washington Post. The mass testing includes everyone who has visited or worked at the market recently, as well as those who live nearby.

"The containment efforts have rapidly entered war-time mode," senior city government official Xu Ying said Monday, according to CBS News. Vice Premier Sun Chunlan has also described the risk of the outbreak spreading as "very high," state news agency Xinhua reported.

Anyone who visited the market since May 30 has been ordered to self-isolate at home, according to the Post, which also reported that several residential areas near the market, which is now closed, have also been sealed off.

All residents in those areas will have to undergo daily temperature checks and will get any food or necessary items delivered to them, reported CNN.

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On Friday, the market’s chairman told state news agency Beijing News that the virus had been detected on a chopping board, which had been used by a vendor who sold imported salmon, according to CNN.

However, the origin of the virus remains unclear.

Although the virus' genome sequencing has suggested it may have come from Europe, a government epidemiologist told state-run network CCTV on Sunday that "we still can't determine how it got here," according to CBS News.

"It might've been from contaminated seafood or meat, or transmitted by people inside the market via their secretions," the epidemiologist continued.

Prior to the outbreak, there had been only 420 coronavirus infections and 9 deaths reported in Beijing, according to CNN.

The number is significantly lower than seen in China as a whole, which as of Monday, has had at least 84,339 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and over 4,000 deaths, according to John's Hopkins University.

At the outbreak’s peak in early February, there were about 1,000 new cases a day in the country, with the city of  Wuhan emerging as an early epicenter of the virus. It is widely believed the virus originated at a local market before spreading around the globe.

As the Beijing outbreak has continued, a number of local officials have been fired, according to the Washington Post.

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