After enjoying a nearly 2-month streak of no new COVID-19 cases, authorities announced two new infections in Fengtai District on Thursday, June 11th. Over the weekend, nucleaic acid testing institutions performed 76,499 tests and have found 59 new positive cases so far.
This new cluster of infections has been traced back to the Xinfadi agricultural products wholesale market.
The first patient to test postive, a 52-year-old-man who hadn’t traveled outside of Beijing for over two weeks, had visited the market’s meat and seafood section back on June 3rd. A large number of the newly confirmed cases are people who either worked at or had recently visited the market. The remaining cases had some form of direct or indirect exposure to the market. Of the detected cases, the majority were found in Fengtai district, but additional infections have been confirmed in Xicheng, Fangshan, Daxing, Haidian, and Chaoyang. Preliminary analysis suggests that the virus strain responsible for the outbreak is different from the original detected in Wuhan and may be a mutation from Europe.
Rumors popped up over the weekend that the new infections originated from imported salmon due to reports that the virus was found on cutting boards used for salmon at Xinfadi, but medical experts have stated that it is extremely unlikely for seafood like salmon to be a carrier. The chief epidemiologist at the CDC, Wu Zunyou, stated that fish cannot catch COVID-19, however, they can be contaminated by workers in the supply chain.
Wu believes that there are two possible explanations for the outbreak:
1. Influx of meat and seafood from around the country that was contaminated by infected workers.
2. Person-to-person transmission that spread due to the hustle and bustle of the market.
In response to the infections, the city has closed down the market, imposed a partial lockdown in the area, and put Fengtai District on a Level 2 emergency response. Residential areas close to the market are blocked to non-residents, and volunteers have been dispatched to take temperatures, scan health codes, and more. A city-wide lockdown is not expected to be neccessary, but several tour groups and sporting events have been cancelled, and a few tourist attractions, like the Lama Temple, have been temporarily closed. Neighboring provinces of Hebei and Tianjin have started to screen arrivals from Beijing to prevent any further spread. Further rules and regulations will be enacted as necessary. Make sure to keep following the news to stay on top of things.
Authorities believe that they can effectively control the new outbreak and stop the spread. However, it’s important to maintain vigilance by wearing masks, utilizating proper sanitiation, and following social distancing recommendations.