Beijing swift to curb new COVID cases
Beijing reported 36 new confirmed cases as of 12 pm on Sunday.
Authorities ramp up testing to cover key areas, population as level of alert rises
Beijing is taking swift steps to curb a new cluster of local COVID-19 infections that has led to more than 50 new cases in the past four days, including shuttering a major wholesale market linked to all new infections, imposing a partial lockdown in its vicinity and ramping up mass testing and screening in key areas.
The capital reported eight new confirmed cases as of 7 am on Sunday and added 36 new infections on Saturday, with the majority found in its southern Fengtai district but also affecting five other districts.
A large number of the newly confirmed patients work at or have been to Fengtai's Xinfadi wholesale market, which sells a wide range of agricultural, meat and seafood products, and the remaining ones had direct or indirect exposure to the market, the city's health commission said.
On Thursday, Beijing reported its first domestic infection in nearly two months－a 52-year-old man who had not been outside Beijing for the past two weeks but visited the seafood and meat hall of the market on June 3.
On Friday, six more people, either workers at the market or people who had recently visited it, were confirmed with having contracted the virus. On the same day, in a citywide check of agricultural product wholesale markets and large supermarkets, only 40 environmental samples taken from the Xinfadi market tested positive for the virus, the commission said.
All confirmed patients in Beijing are mildly or moderately ill, except for one patient being classified as a severe case on Friday and one whose condition has not been revealed, commission data shows.
The State Council's Joint Prevention and Control Mechanism said during a meeting on Sunday that the strictest epidemiological survey and comprehensive investigation into the origin of the source will be rolled out in Xinfadi and its nearby areas.
The meeting stressed expanding testing to cover all key areas and key populations while tightening control of movement in affected communities, launching rigorous screening and enforcing centralized quarantine of all confirmed cases and their close contacts, suspected cases as well as people with fever.
Precautions against hospital-acquired infections must be strengthened and all agricultural product markets, catering venues and related logistics facilities nationwide will be disinfected, according to the meeting.
Xu Hejian, a spokesman for the municipal government, said on Sunday: "Beijing has entered an extraordinary period. We should draw lessons from the pain, remain alert against the risk of the epidemic at all times and resolutely cut off the spread of the virus."
"All personnel in the Xinfadi market and nearby residents will receive nucleic acid tests and be put under medical observation. Those who have had close contact with workers at the market since May 30 should take the initiative to report to their employers and communities, and go through testing," Xu said.
From 3 am on Saturday, the market has been shut down for probes into its contamination and infection risk, as well as cleaning and disinfection.
Eleven residential areas nearby are now closed to nonresidents, and several primary schools and kindergartens near the market are suspended, Chu Junwei, acting chief of Fengtai, said on Saturday.
Chen Yankai, deputy director of Beijing's market supervision administration, said on Sunday that 252 agricultural product markets that are in operation are urged to conduct disinfection on a daily basis and five suspended trade fairs have also been disinfected.
Zhang Jie, deputy chief of Fengtai, said on Sunday that it plans to set up 24 nucleic acid testing kiosks near the Xinfadi market, aiming to test 46,000 residents living nearby, and "10,881 of them had already been tested as of Sunday afternoon".
Gao Xiaojun, a spokesman for the Beijing Health Commission, said the city has 98 testing facilities, capable of carrying out over 90,000 nucleic acid tests in one day.
To further tighten screening at fever clinics across the city, Gao said on Sunday that all people who visit a hospital for fever will take both nucleic acid and antibody tests, and receive a CT scan and routine blood tests. Inquires into their movement records will also be increased.
"Hospitals where confirmed cases had visited are required to comprehensively screen medical workers or other personnel who had came into contact with them and to properly disinfect wards," he said, adding that the test results for 79 hospital workers so far had all been negative.
On Saturday, the city government also announced that all interprovincial tour groups and sports competition events will be halted. Some tourist attractions, including the Lama Temple, have also been temporarily closed off.
The Chinese mainland reported 57 new confirmed infections on Saturday, including 36 locally transmitted cases found in Beijing and two in Liaoning province, while 19 imported cases of infection were detected in Guangdong province, Chongqing and Shanghai.
Provincial health authorities in Liaoning said the two new local cases added on Saturday were close contacts with one of the infections added on Friday in Beijing. They were asymptomatic at the beginning but re-diagnosed as confirmed cases on Saturday.
Nationwide, a total of 129 patients were under treatment as of Sunday and the number of accumulative confirmed infections had risen to 83,132, with 4,634 deaths.
Following the new infections in Beijing, a number of regions across the country are taking measures to monitor travelers from the capital.
Parts of neighboring Tianjin and Hebei province have released notices requiring thorough screening of people who had traveled to affected areas in Beijing and calling for tighter inspections of fresh produce, meat and seafood products.
Tongliao, a city in the Inner Mongolia autonomous region, said all people who come from areas of Beijing that are at medium or high risk of the virus' spread will be placed under centralized quarantine for 14 days and take multiple tests.
Health authorities in Suzhou, Jiangsu province, said on Sunday that people are discouraged from traveling for nonessential reasons to areas seeing new infections.