Mass testing in Beijing after outbreak
Military-style action aimed at stopping virus
Beijing has set about testing hundreds of thousands of people for coronavirus in an exhaustive effort to stamp out a new eruption of the disease in the Chinese capital.
After dozens of new cases were reported over the weekend and continuing into Monday, Chinese authorities mobilized almost 100,000 community workers to carry out tests on everyone who has worked in or visited the Xinfadi market in the southwest of Beijing.
Xinfadi is the largest fruit, vegetable and meat market in the capital, which is home to some 21 million people, and supplies 70 per cent of the city’s fresh vegetables and 80 per cent of its fruit.
But after discovering more than 90 new infections linked to the market over the weekend, and a further 36 being reported Monday, Beijing’s health authorities are taking military-style action to try to ensure the virus doesn’t spread further.
“These clustered cases are highly correlated with the Xinfadi agricultural wholesale market, which has a highly mobile crowd and poses great outbreak risks,” Vice Premier Sun Chunlan said at a State Council briefing, according to state media reports Monday. “We have to take firm action and resolute measures to effectively stop the epidemic from spreading,” she said.
The sudden appearance of scores of new infections, both symptomatic and asymptomatic, highlights the resilience of the virus despite tight social controls. It also underscores the dangers of markets as the virus is believed to have originated in the Huanan food market in the city of Wuhan before it spread across the globe.
More than 77,000 people were tested on Sunday and another 200,000 people were expected to be tested Monday, Beijing municipal authorities said.
Everyone who has visited the market since May 30 is also ordered to isolate themselves at home, and residential compounds around Xinfadi and another nearby market, Yuquan, have been sealed off so that residents can’t wander freely. Nine kindergartens and elementary schools around Xinfadi were also ordered to close.
The first signs that the cluster was linked to Xinfadi came with a man who tested positive after visiting the market on June 3 to buy meat and seafood. Then on Friday, Beijing’s Centre for Disease Control and Prevention announced that two quality control workers who had been in the market checking standards had also tested positive.