Beijing to implement "wartime" measures as 46 people test positive for COVID-19

Officials in Beijing found coronavirus strand on a chopping board of imported salmon

Security guards wearing face masks stand outside the Jingshen seafood market in Beijing | Reuters Security guards wearing face masks stand outside the Jingshen seafood market in Beijing | Reuters

With 46 people testing positive for the novel coronavirus in the last three days in Beijing after a period of lull, officials in the Chinese capital have initiated "wartime" measures, focusing on a wholesale food market where the new cluster of infections were reported from. The new cases at Xinfadi wholesale food market has raised concern among the people as it supplies 90 per cent of the capital's vegetables and meat products catering to about 20 million people.

Along with the Xinfadi market six other markets were closed on Saturday.

Officials in Beijing found the coronavirus strand on a chopping board of imported salmon at the Xinfadi market following which the fish stocks were removed from Chaoshifa market, Carrefour and Wumart stores in the city.

China imports about 80,000 tonnes of frozen salmon every year. Chile, Norway, Faroe Islands, Australia and Canada are the main exporters to China. Lin Li, chief scientist of a team that monitors aquatic disease and control in Guangdong Province, told the Global Times it is not possible for live salmon to be contaminated with the virus as it breeds in the ocean, neither can frozen salmon be a source of COVID-19 which can only exist in active cells.

Forty-six people in Beijing have tested positive for the coronavirus over the last few days, the Global Times report said.

Local municipal officials, who addressed the media, said they could not rule out the possibility of additional cases in Beijing. All the 46 positive cases were connected to local markets but none have symptoms. They are under close medical observation, Pang Xinghuo, deputy director of the municipal centre for disease prevention and control, told a media briefing on Saturday.

Of the 517 samples taken at the Xinfadi wholesale market in Beijing's Fengtai district, 45 people's throat swabs tested positive for the virus. Another person connected to a market in Beijing's Haidian district also tested positive, the daily reported. Forty environmental samples collected at the Xinfadi market also tested positive.

Testing of some 10,000 people who have connections to the market began after six confirmed cases of COVID-19 were reported on Friday, following a single new confirmed case on Thursday.

The new cases have brought a sense of disquiet in Beijing which in the last two months was being projected as safe. The government went ahead with its ten-day Parliament session and officially relaxed the guard with the municipal council recommending the people to do away with masks.

In response to the emergency, Fengtai district has been put on "wartime" activity with close management of the 11 residential areas around Xinfadi market. Officials are manning the area at all hours, the report said.

Three schools and six kindergartens near Xinfadi market have stopped classes.