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Watch: China ramps up emergency steps as Beijing grapples with Covid-19 resurgence

On June 11, Beijing recorded its first domestically transmitted Covid-positive case in 57 days. In the days that followed, over 150 confirmed cases were recorded — most of which were linked to Beijing’s bustling Xinfadi wholesale market.

By: Express Web Desk | New Delhi |
June 18, 2020 3:03:51 pm
Workers in protective suits register people at a COVID-19 testing site for those who were potentially exposed to the coronavirus outbreak at a wholesale food market in Beijing, Wednesday, June 17, 2020. (AP Photo)

China has ramped up emergency measures to contain a possible resurgence of the COVID-19 pandemic in Beijing after a cluster of positive cases was recorded in the capital city for the first time in two months. Authorities announced they were raising the city’s public health emergency response to the second-highest level, following which over 1,200 flights were grounded, long-distance bus travel was suspended, schools were shut and all 22 million Beijing residents were urged to stay within city borders.

Weeks after Beijing started to relax lockdown measures, authorities discovered a sudden spike in the number of coronavirus cases in the city. On June 11, Beijing recorded its first domestically transmitted Covid-positive case in 57 days. In the days that followed, over 150 confirmed cases were recorded — most of which were linked to Beijing’s bustling Xinfadi wholesale market.

The market — which supplies 80 per cent of Beijing’s vegetables and meat — was shut down on Saturday after it was identified as being at the centre of the new cluster of cases, BBC reported.

While the source of the recent outbreak is unclear, a COVID-19 strain detected on a chopping board used to cut imported salmon has raised alarm in China. City authorities began mass testing after over 45 market employees were confirmed to be Covid-positive.

Soon after the popular wholesale market became a COVID-19 hotspot, vendors had no option but to clear their shelves and dump all their vegetables and seafood outside. Videos shared on social media show masked market employees urgently unloading trucks and dumping produce and meat in empty warehouses and onto the street.

“Wartime-like” measures were deployed in the city to mitigate the spread of the virus, officials said. Several videos, which have surfaced online, show paramilitary police officials marching down the street leading to Xinfadi market to impose lockdown measures. As many as five other wholesale markets in the area have also been shut down, as per reports.

Thousands of people who had visited the market in the past month underwent nucleic acid tests at Beijing’s Xuanqu Stadium, national broadcaster CGTN reported. City authorities claim to have conducted as many as 3.5 lakh tests since the first new case was reported last week.

With top Chinese officials warning that the numbers are likely to rise significantly in the coming days, Beijing has reinstated lockdown measures in over 27 neighbourhoods and has also drastically restricted travel. According to city officials, nobody will be allowed to leave the city without testing negative for COVID-19. Residents of the high- and medium-risk neighbourhoods under lockdown will not be able to leave at all.

The Beijing Blue Sky Rescue Team deployed 32 of its members to carry out disinfection operations at several wholesale markets in the area as well as the neighbourhoods that surround it, China Daily reported. The team has been seen in videos, entering residential areas wearing PPE suits with disinfectant-filled guns.

Multiple videos have surfaced on Twitter showing alarmingly long lines of people flouting social distancing regulations while queueing up outside testing centres in China’s capital.

In an attempt to enforce social distancing on the city’s public transport, the capacity of buses and metros was cut by half. Long-distance buses and taxis were banned from crossing city limits earlier this week. According to Global Times, the number of commuters on Beijing’s subway service on Wednesday dropped by 40 per cent as compared to last Wednesday.

The first cluster of COVID-19 cases was identified in Wuhan, China in December, last year. In May, China claimed that it had successfully contained the spread of the pandemic. However, the rising number of cases in Beijing now raises concerns of a possible second wave of the virus worldwide.

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