BEIJING | The epidemic situation in Beijing is “extremely serious,” the city hall warned on Tuesday, with a hundred cases of COVID-19 identified since last week in the Chinese capital after the emergence of a new outbreak.
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The city has begun testing tens of thousands of residents. The upsurge comes as the country, where the new coronavirus was spotted in late 2019, had virtually eradicated the epidemic.
The Ministry of Health on Tuesday reported 27 new patients in Beijing, bringing to 106 the total number of cases registered for five days in the metropolis, which had not experienced any new infection for two months.
The renewed contagion came from the huge wholesale market in Xinfadi, in the south of the capital, where the coronavirus was spotted last week. Cases have also been reported in other markets, which are now closed.
In total, the municipality ordered the confinement of nearly 30 residential areas. Their thousands of residents are no longer allowed to leave, but can be resupplied.
“The epidemic situation in the capital is extremely serious,” Xu Hejian, a city council spokesman, told the press, speaking of a “race against time” against the coronavirus.
Panic has not yet spread to Beijing, where only nine COVID-19 deaths have been recorded since December, and zero since the discovery of the new outbreak.
However, this renewed epidemic has raised fears of a second wave. The World Health Organization (WHO) said it is monitoring the situation “very closely” and mentioned sending additional experts to Beijing.
City officials said they wanted to screen all market vendors, as well as restaurant managers.
Zhao Honglei, the owner of a grocery store, told AFP that its 13 employees had all been declared negative.
His customers seemed reassured, but Zhao says online orders have increased tenfold in recent days. “People are afraid of ending up in crowded stores where they could be infected,” he said.
The city of Beijing, which has a population of 21 million, has increased its daily screening capacity to more than 90,000, according to the China News Agency.
Under 36 degrees, many Beijingers wearing masks were waiting Tuesday in a park to be tested, found the AFP.
“I try not to go too far,” said 57-year-old retiree Wu Yaling, who says she lives near one of the offending markets.
Monday, the town hall decided to close the sports and cultural sites. And Chinese cities have announced the quarantine of travelers from Beijing.
The Beijing city hall claims to have already disinfected 276 markets and 33,000 restaurants or food businesses. She says she closed 11 markets.
Seven additional residential areas, of the thousands in the city, were also confined on Tuesday. They are added to the 21 that already are. These measures concern only a tiny fraction of the Pekingese.
“This epidemic rebound will probably be quickly mastered,” said Wu Hulin, a 23-year-old employee in the new technology sector. “Because I think China is doing a good job compared to foreign countries.”
Since May 30, some 200,000 people have visited the Xinfadi market, where the virus was found, including on cutting boards for imported salmon.
More than 8,000 local employees, who supply 70% of the fruits and vegetables consumed in Beijing, were screened and then placed in quarantine.
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said on Monday that the strain found on the market corresponded to a strain commonly found in Europe.
But “that is not enough to certify that it comes from imported seafood,” CDC chief epidemiologist Wu Zunyou said on television. “It could have come from an infected person.”