Parts of Beijing were placed under lockdown on Saturday as six new domestic coronavirus cases were reported, fuelling fears of a Second wave of the virus in China. China was the site of the first coronavirus case in history, a subject which has become the object of many conspiracy theories as people around the world speculate on the origins of the virus. While China initially saw rapid infections, it was able to enforce strict lockdowns, which kept its tally relatively low. It is currently the 18th most affected country by the virus, down from the first spot in January 2020.
People were prevented from leaving their homes at 11 residential estates in south Beijing’s Fengtai district after most of the cases were linked to a nearby meat market, city officials said in a press briefing.
Second wave of virus in China: first COVID case detected in two months
Beijing’s first COVID-19 case in two months, announced on Thursday, had visited Xinfadi meat market last week and had no recent travel history outside the city.
China’s domestic outbreak had been brought largely under control through vast, strict lockdowns that were imposed after the disease was first detected in the central city of Wuhan last year.
Read more: Second wave of coronavirus cases hits China
These measures had largely been lifted as the infection rate dropped, and the majority of cases reported in recent months were citizens living abroad who were tested as they returned home during the pandemic.
Among the six new domestic cases announced Saturday were three Xinfadi market workers, one market visitor and two employees at the China Meat Research Centre, seven kilometres (four miles) away. One of the employees had visited the market last week.
Authorities closed the market, along with another seafood market visited by one of the patients, for disinfection and sample collection on Friday.
Deployment to aid in lockdown amid fears of second wave of virus in China
AFP reporters saw hundreds of police officers and dozens of paramilitary police deployed at the two markets. Workers were seen hauling several crates of seafood out of Jingshen seafood market, also in Fengtai district.
Fengtai district officials announced Saturday that the district has established a “wartime mechanism” and “field command centre” to deal with the fresh wave.
Nine nearby schools and kindergartens have been closed. On Friday, Beijing officials delayed the return of students to primary schools across the city, and suspended all sporting events and group dining. Cross-provincial tour groups were suspended on Saturday.
The chairman of the Xinfadi meat wholesale market told state-run Beijing News that the virus was detected on chopping boards used to handle imported salmon, stoking fears over the hygiene of Beijing’s food supply.
Beijing’s market supervision authorities ordered a city-wide food safety inspection focusing on fresh and frozen meat, poultry and fish in supermarkets, warehouses and catering services.
Major supermarket chains including Wumart and Carrefour removed all stocks of salmon overnight in the capital, but said supplies of other products would not be affected, Beijing Daily reported Saturday.
Some Beijing restaurants were not serving any salmon on Saturday, according to AFP reporters.
Mass testing to forestall second wave of virus in China
Beijing authorities also announced a mass COVID-19 testing campaign of anyone who has had “close contact” with the Xinfadi market since May 30, after they tested over 5,000 environmental samples from farmers’ markets and large supermarkets across the city on Friday. Of those, all 40 positive samples came from Xinfadi market.
Nearly 2,000 wholesale market workers in Beijing were also tested for the virus on Friday, authorities said.
Of the tests already carried out, an additional 46 market workers tested positive for the virus in throat swabs but currently show no clinical symptoms, officials said. All have been placed under strict medical observation.
All but one of them are Xinfadi market workers, and the remaining case works at a farmers’ market in Haidian district, northwest Beijing.
The Haidian worker is a close contact of one of the confirmed cases linked to Xinfadi market.
Lack of immunity may be behind second wave
Earlier, it was reported that China faces a potential second wave of coronavirus infections due to a lack of immunity among its population, its government’s senior medical advisor has warned.
After months of lockdowns and curbs on travel China has largely brought the virus under control, but fears of a second wave have risen as clusters have emerged in northeast provinces and in the central city of Wuhan.
“The majority of… Chinese at the moment are still susceptible of the Covid-19 infection, because (of) a lack of immunity,” Zhong Nanshan, the public face of government’s response to the pandemic, told CNN.
“We are facing (a) big challenge,” Zhong added. “It’s not better than the foreign countries I think at the moment.”
This further amplifies the challenge facing China in it’s bid to forestall a second wave of coronavirus infections in the mainland.
AFP with additional input by GVS News Desk
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