Panicked shoppers clear Beijing shelves on second-wave fears

Top News | Agence France-Presse 15 Jun 2020

Panicked Beijing residents have swept food products off supermarket shelves after the capital reported 36 new local cases tied to a massive food market, sparking worries of a resurgence in national infections.

China reported its largest daily increase in cases since mid-April with 57 new infections on June 13, including 19 imported cases and the rest locally transmitted, according to the National Health Commission yesterday.

Of the 38 local cases, 36 were in Beijing - and authorities said they either worked at the massive Xinfadi wholesale food market or visited recently.

Beijing health authorities said they are still investigating the source of the virus, but DNA sequencing indicated it could have been imported from Europe.

It said the virus could be in contaminated seafood or meat, or brought into the market by people entering it.

Although some supermarkets ran out of vegetables, overall supply of daily necessities remain stable, municipal commerce bureau said.

The city's largest fruit and vegetable supply center, Xinfadi wholesale market, was shut down from early Saturday. The coronavirus was found on a chopping board used by a seller of salmon believed to have been imported from Norway.

Over the weekend, residents rushed to supermarkets in different districts, sweeping fresh meat and vegetables and emptying nearly all shelves.

Most Japanese restaurants have stopped selling dishes with salmon, although experts said it is almost impossible for fishes to be infected with the virus.

However, they said humans working on the salmon could have spread the virus there, and the virus could survive in low temperatures.

The domestic outbreak in China had been brought largely under control through strict lockdowns that were imposed early this year.

The other two domestic infections yesterday were in northeastern Liaoning province and were close contacts of the Beijing cases.

The new cluster has prompted fresh lockdowns, with people ordered to stay home in 11 residential estates near the market.

City official Xu Hejian said Beijing had entered an "extraordinary period."

One of the new cases was a 56-year-old man who works as an airport bus driver and had visited the Xinfadi market before falling ill, the state-run People's Daily reported.

He developed a fever a week later and was diagnosed with Covid-19.

The meat section of the huge, sprawling market was closed yesterday, with hundreds of police and security personnel plus dozens of paramilitary police blocking access to the area.

Officials have said that everyone who works at the market and lives in surrounding neighborhoods has to undergo testing, as well as those who have visited the market. A vegetable market adjacent to Xinfadi was open yesterday and trucks were arriving to deliver or collect stock.

In nearby streets, residents were under lockdown and businesses and restaurants were closed.

Covid-19 first emerged late last year in a market in the central city of Wuhan that sold wild animals for meat.

The latest outbreak in Beijing has turned the spotlight on the hygiene of the city's food supply chain.

Beijing authorities ordered a city-wide food safety inspection focusing on fresh and frozen meat, poultry and fish in supermarkets, warehouses and catering services.

"The meat sellers have had to close. This disease is really scary."

Although the Xinfadi market accounts for much of the capital's food supply, Sun said that it did not affect him as he gets his produce directly from farmers.

The 19 other infections reported yesterday were all imported cases, including 17 travelers on a China Southern flight from Bangladesh.

Editorial: No second wave as first one isn't done

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