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2020-06-13 07:10:18

A district in Beijing is now in “wartime” mode following the closure of a wholesale agriculture market that has been linked to a spike in locally transmitted infections of the COVID-19 virus over the past two days.

At a press briefing Saturday, officials reported that 46 people connected to the Xinfadi market — the largest farmers market in China’s capital — had tested positive for the coronavirus. Forty-five of the infected work at the market, and the additional person is a close contact of someone who visited the market. None of the 46 who tested positive have shown symptoms.

The Xinfadi market was closed at 3 a.m. Saturday, and authorities have ordered a mass inspection of the city’s meat products currently in circulation, targeting wholesale markets, restaurants, and grocery stores.

Chu Junwei, a local official, said at the press briefing that Fengtai District, where Xinfadi is located, is now in “wartime emergency” mode. Around 140 close contacts of the newly identified cases have been put under quarantine. Meanwhile, 11 residential communities near the wholesale market will be sealed off, Chu said, and nearby kindergartens and primary schools will suspend classes.

Since Thursday, Beijing has reported seven “confirmed infections” — a term used in China to refer to people who both test positive for the virus and show symptoms. One of the cases diagnosed Thursday had traveled outside the city, a local disease control official said. Five out of the six confirmed cases reported in Beijing Friday were people who worked at Xinfadi. There were 11 other confirmed infections elsewhere in China over the same two-day period, all among people arriving from abroad.

The Beijing cluster seems to have spread to at least one other province. On Friday, Liaoning in northeastern China reported two asymptomatic infections, both of whom had been in contact with one of the people confirmed infected Friday in the capital.

The coronavirus was first detected on a chopping board used for salmon, according to the chairman of Xinfadi market. After the local infections were announced, Beijing supermarkets including Carrefour reportedly removed their salmon products overnight.

Before Thursday, Beijing had not reported a single coronavirus case for 56 days. The city will suspend sporting events and tour groups to other provinces, effective immediately, a spokesman said during the press briefing.

Editor: David Paulk.

(Header image: A police officer walks in front of the Xinfadi wholesale market in Beijing, June 13, 2020. Zhang Yu/CNS/People Visual)