Coronavirus Second Wave: Beijing Becomes Wuhan as New Cluster Emerges Forcing Lockdown, Mass Testing

An epidemiologist in China claims that a DNA sequencing of the virus showed the latest outbreak could have come from Europe

Beijing city authorities said in a press briefing on Monday that "multiple" Coronavirus cases at a market in Haidian were found to have originated from the Xinfadi wholesale market. The officials said as of midnight Monday, ten residential communities near the Yuquandong market in Haidian had been closed and local citizens were put under home quarantine and ordered to take nucleic acid tests.

On Monday, Chinese health officials reported 49 new COVID-19 cases including 36 more in the Chinese capital, Beijing, where a fresh cluster linked to the Xinfadi market has fuelled fears of a second wave of novel Coronavirus infection. In addition, the National Health Commission said that there were three confirmed cases in Hebei province, which surrounds the capital.

Mass Testing in Beijing

Coronavirus test kit
Coronavirus testing in Beijing Twitter

The authorities in Beijing have started mass testing of workers at the Xinfadi food market and nearby residents as well as anyone who visited the area in recent weeks. As per the officials, they have planned to carry out virus tests on 46,000 residents in the area, while over 10,000 people have already been tested for the virus.

Authorities are now trying to track down those people who have visited the wholesale market, with companies and neighborhood communities messaging staff and residents seeking details about their recent movements.

Local media reports revealed that on Monday, China recorded 10 new imported cases of COVID-19 which have accounted for the majority of China's cases in recent months as overseas Chinese nationals returned home.

Beijing Xinfadi market
Xinfadi market, where it start is not some dinky Wuhan wet market - it’s a mega market scale on order of 1/3 of Central Park Twitter/@DrEricDing

Beijing to Become New Wuhan?

As Beijing has traced dozens of new Coronavirus cases to the wholesale food market after almost two infection-free months, it is raising concerns about a resurgence of the disease. As per the Beijing authorities, contact tracing showed that all the infected people had either worked or shopped inside the Xinfadi market, which is known as the largest food market in Asia, or had been in contact with someone who visited the market.

But the Beijing outbreak is not limited to its borders, as it has spread to the neighboring north-eastern province of Liaoning, where the health authority said the two new Coronavirus cases confirmed on Sunday, June 14, were of those who had been in close contact with confirmed cases in Beijing. After the confirmation of the new cluster at least 10 Chinese cities, including Harbin and Dalian, have urged residents not to travel to Beijing or to report to authorities if they had visited recently.

Beijing Coronavirus
Xinfadi wholesale market, Beijing Wikimedia commons

Fengtai district's Huaxiang which has one of China's biggest used car centers raised its epidemic risk level to high on Sunday and that makes it the only neighborhood in the country to be on high alert.

Last year in December, when Coronavirus started to spread across Wuhan, a wet market in the city was claimed to be the source of the disease. Even though in the past few months, experts and politicians have put forward several theories behind the origin of SARS-CoV-2 (Covid-19), many people still claim that market theory cannot be overlooked. Does it anyhow indicate that Beijing could turn into Wuhan this time?

A government epidemic expert on Sunday told Health Times, a paper run by state media People's Daily that "Beijing will not turn into a second Wuhan, spreading the virus to many cities all over the country and needing a lockdown." The former chief epidemiologist at the Chinese Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, Zeng Guang who is currently a senior expert with the National Health Commission said the new outbreak will likely be controlled after an initial spike.

Yang Peng, an epidemiologist with the Beijing authorities has claimed that a DNA sequencing of the virus showed that the latest outbreak in the wholesale market could have come from Europe. As per the state media reports, Peng said the preliminary assessment showed the virus came from overseas and added, "We still can't determine how it's got here. It might have been on contaminated seafood or meat, or spread from the feces of people inside the market."

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