Fresh Covid-19 concerns send parts of Beijing into lockdown

A fruit vendor arranges his stock as he wears a protective mask at a local market in Beijing, China.
A fruit vendor arranges his stock as he wears a protective mask at a local market in Beijing, China.
Kevin Frayer/Getty Images
  • A fresh outbreak cluster of Covid-19 has broken out in Beijing, liked to a food market. 
  • People have been ordered to stay at home in at least 11 residential estates in Beijing's Fengtai district.
  • Government officials announced a "wartime mechanism" to deal with the new outbreak.
  • The new outbreak could be related to imported salmon.


Dozens of people tested positive for the coronavirus in Beijing as parts of the city were locked down Saturday after the emergence of a new cluster linked to a wholesale food market.

People were ordered to stay home at 11 residential estates in south Beijing's Fengtai district and the nearby Xinfadi market was closed as authorities raced to contain the outbreak that has fuelled fears of a resurgence in local transmission.

Most of the six new domestic infections reported Saturday were linked to the meat and vegetable market, health officials said, which provides much of the capital's food supply.

Official news agency Xinhua reported at least one of the cases was "severe".

But another 45 asymptomatic cases - which China counts separately - were detected after mass testing of nearly 2 000 workers at the market on Friday, city health official Pang Xinghuo later told reporters.

Another worker tested positive at a farmers' market in the city's northwestern district of Haidian -- a close contact of one of the confirmed cases linked to Xinfadi.

Lockdown

Beijing's first Covid-19 case in two months, announced Thursday, had visited Xinfadi market and had no recent travel history outside the city.

China's domestic outbreak had been brought largely under control through strict lockdowns that were imposed after the disease was first detected late last year.

These measures had mostly been lifted as the infection rate dropped, and the majority of recent cases 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.

'Wartime mechanism'

AFP reporters saw hundreds of police officers, many wearing masks and gloves, and dozens of paramilitary police deployed at the two markets, with no one allowed to leave Xinfadi.

An ambulance was seen driving in on Saturday afternoon.

Officials in Fengtai - which has more than two million residents - announced Saturday that the district has established a "wartime mechanism" to deal with the fresh wave.

Police cars were patrolling the streets outside blocked-off neighbourhoods and AFP saw one bus carrying workers in hazmat suits.The chairman of the Xinfadi 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 the city'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.

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