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Beijing Shuts Down Seafood Market After Dozens Test Positive for Coronavirus

Beijing Shuts Down Seafood Market After Dozens Test Positive for Coronavirus

Nearly all of the 53 people had worked or shopped at the market, which is said to supply 90 percent of the Chinese capital’s fruit and vegetables.

Police officers guarding the entrance to the closed Xinfadi market in Beijing on Saturday.
Police officers guarding the entrance to the closed Xinfadi market in Beijing on Saturday.Credit…Greg Baker/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

By Vivian Wang and Elaine Yu

  • June 13, 2020Updated 9:23 a.m. ET

The Beijing authorities shut down a major seafood and produce market and locked down several residential complexes on Saturday after 53 people tested positive for the coronavirus in the city, renewing fears that China’s grip on the pandemic is not yet secure.LIVE UPDATESFollow our live coverage of the global coronavirus pandemic.

Nearly everyone who tested positive had worked or shopped at the Xinfadi market, a wholesale market on the city’s south side that sells seafood, fruit and vegetables, according to the Beijing health commission.

More than 10,000 people work at the market, which supplies 90 percent of Beijing’s fruits and vegetables, according to the state media. The virus was reportedly detected on cutting boards for imported salmon there.

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The developments prompted the authorities to temporarily shut down the market, to partly or completely close five others in the capital, and to lock down 11 nearby residential communities and nine schools that had reopened after lockdowns that were put in place to curb the virus. State media outlets described the effort as a “wartime mechanism.”

Beijing is also tightening traffic controls into and out of the city, barring inter-provincial tour groups and suspending sporting events, according to official announcements and local news reports. Officials had already said on Friday that they would suspend plans for students in first, second and third grade throughout the city to return to school on Monday.

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The stakes for the city and the country are high. A renewed outbreak in Beijing could undermine not only China’s public health, but also its geopolitical ambitions. China was the site of the first major coronavirus outbreak, but as the pandemic has ravaged the rest of the world, the authorities in China have loudly promoted their apparent success in controlling its spread as proof of the superiority of their top-down political system.

High school students in Beijing on Friday.
High school students in Beijing on Friday.Credit…Greg Baker/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

They have taken aggressive steps to prevent a second wave, including testing almost all of the 11 million residents of Wuhan, the central Chinese city where the outbreak began. The authorities appear to be especially wary of an outbreak in the capital city; even after other cities began welcoming domestic travelers, Beijing for a time maintained stricter requirements for new arrivals.

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Before the new cluster of cases, Beijing had not reported any new locally transmitted cases for eight weeks.

China’s wet markets — where vendors sell fresh meat, seafood and produce — have come under scrutiny in recent months, because many of the first reported cases in Wuhan were tied to a seafood market there that has since been permanently closed. Epidemiologists have not arrived at a consensus on whether the market was the source of the virus.

Seven of the 53 people who tested positive over the previous three days had shown symptoms, while 46 were asymptomatic, according to Beijing health officials. Of the seven people with symptoms, six had not left Beijing in the previous two weeks, officials said.

The Beijing health commission said that at least three of the seven were employees of the Xinfadi market, including a 50-year-old purchaser for the market who was in serious condition and a 35-year-old salesman. Another three had visited the market, according to the state media. Officials did not announce any connection for the seventh person.

The asymptomatic cases were all market employees, with the exception of one who had been in close contact with a Xinfadi worker. They were discovered after health officials tested hundreds of workers en masse after the first cases were reported.

The Coronavirus Outbreak

  • Frequently Asked Questions and AdviceUpdated June 12, 2020
    • What’s the risk of catching coronavirus from a surface?Touching contaminated objects and then infecting ourselves with the germs is not typically how the virus spreads. But it can happen. A number of studies of flu, rhinovirus, coronavirus and other microbes have shown that respiratory illnesses, including the new coronavirus, can spread by touching contaminated surfaces, particularly in places like day care centers, offices and hospitals. But a long chain of events has to happen for the disease to spread that way. The best way to protect yourself from coronavirus — whether it’s surface transmission or close human contact — is still social distancing, washing your hands, not touching your face and wearing masks.
    • Does asymptomatic transmission of Covid-19 happen?So far, the evidence seems to show it does. A widely cited paper published in April suggests that people are most infectious about two days before the onset of coronavirus symptoms and estimated that 44 percent of new infections were a result of transmission from people who were not yet showing symptoms. Recently, a top expert at the World Health Organization stated that transmission of the coronavirus by people who did not have symptoms was “very rare,” but she later walked back that statement.
    • How does blood type influence coronavirus?A study by European scientists is the first to document a strong statistical link between genetic variations and Covid-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus. Having Type A blood was linked to a 50 percent increase in the likelihood that a patient would need to get oxygen or to go on a ventilator, according to the new study.
    • How many people have lost their jobs due to coronavirus in the U.S.?The unemployment rate fell to 13.3 percent in May, the Labor Department said on June 5, an unexpected improvement in the nation’s job market as hiring rebounded faster than economists expected. Economists had forecast the unemployment rate to increase to as much as 20 percent, after it hit 14.7 percent in April, which was the highest since the government began keeping official statistics after World War II. But the unemployment rate dipped instead, with employers adding 2.5 million jobs, after more than 20 million jobs were lost in April.
    • Will protests set off a second viral wave of coronavirus?Mass protests against police brutality that have brought thousands of people onto the streets in cities across America are raising the specter of new coronavirus outbreaks, prompting political leaders, physicians and public health experts to warn that the crowds could cause a surge in cases. While many political leaders affirmed the right of protesters to express themselves, they urged the demonstrators to wear face masks and maintain social distancing, both to protect themselves and to prevent further community spread of the virus. Some infectious disease experts were reassured by the fact that the protests were held outdoors, saying the open air settings could mitigate the risk of transmission.
    • How do we start exercising again without hurting ourselves after months of lockdown?Exercise researchers and physicians have some blunt advice for those of us aiming to return to regular exercise now: Start slowly and then rev up your workouts, also slowly. American adults tended to be about 12 percent less active after the stay-at-home mandates began in March than they were in January. But there are steps you can take to ease your way back into regular exercise safely. First, “start at no more than 50 percent of the exercise you were doing before Covid,” says Dr. Monica Rho, the chief of musculoskeletal medicine at the Shirley Ryan AbilityLab in Chicago. Thread in some preparatory squats, too, she advises. “When you haven’t been exercising, you lose muscle mass.” Expect some muscle twinges after these preliminary, post-lockdown sessions, especially a day or two later. But sudden or increasing pain during exercise is a clarion call to stop and return home.
    • My state is reopening. Is it safe to go out?States are reopening bit by bit. This means that more public spaces are available for use and more and more businesses are being allowed to open again. The federal government is largely leaving the decision up to states, and some state leaders are leaving the decision up to local authorities. Even if you aren’t being told to stay at home, it’s still a good idea to limit trips outside and your interaction with other people.
    • What are the symptoms of coronavirus?Common symptoms include fever, a dry cough, fatigue and difficulty breathing or shortness of breath. Some of these symptoms overlap with those of the flu, making detection difficult, but runny noses and stuffy sinuses are less common. The C.D.C. has also added chills, muscle pain, sore throat, headache and a new loss of the sense of taste or smell as symptoms to look out for. Most people fall ill five to seven days after exposure, but symptoms may appear in as few as two days or as many as 14 days.
    • How can I protect myself while flying?If air travel is unavoidable, there are some steps you can take to protect yourself. Most important: Wash your hands often, and stop touching your face. If possible, choose a window seat. A study from Emory University found that during flu season, the safest place to sit on a plane is by a window, as people sitting in window seats had less contact with potentially sick people. Disinfect hard surfaces. When you get to your seat and your hands are clean, use disinfecting wipes to clean the hard surfaces at your seat like the head and arm rest, the seatbelt buckle, the remote, screen, seat back pocket and the tray table. If the seat is hard and nonporous or leather or pleather, you can wipe that down, too. (Using wipes on upholstered seats could lead to a wet seat and spreading of germs rather than killing them.)
    • How do I take my temperature?Taking one’s temperature to look for signs of fever is not as easy as it sounds, as “normal” temperature numbers can vary, but generally, keep an eye out for a temperature of 100.5 degrees Fahrenheit or higher. If you don’t have a thermometer (they can be pricey these days), there are other ways to figure out if you have a fever, or are at risk of Covid-19 complications.
    • Should I wear a mask?The C.D.C. has recommended that all Americans wear cloth masks if they go out in public. This is a shift in federal guidance reflecting new concerns that the coronavirus is being spread by infected people who have no symptoms. Until now, the C.D.C., like the W.H.O., has advised that ordinary people don’t need to wear masks unless they are sick and coughing. Part of the reason was to preserve medical-grade masks for health care workers who desperately need them at a time when they are in continuously short supply. Masks don’t replace hand washing and social distancing.
    • What should I do if I feel sick?If you’ve been exposed to the coronavirus or think you have, and have a fever or symptoms like a cough or difficulty breathing, call a doctor. They should give you advice on whether you should be tested, how to get tested, and how to seek medical treatment without potentially infecting or exposing others.
    • How do I get tested?If you’re sick and you think you’ve been exposed to the new coronavirus, the C.D.C. recommends that you call your healthcare provider and explain your symptoms and fears. They will decide if you need to be tested. Keep in mind that there’s a chance — because of a lack of testing kits or because you’re asymptomatic, for instance — you won’t be able to get tested.

Officials also collected environmental samples and tested meat and seafood from the market, some of which came back positive, suggesting that workers could have been infected either through contact with an infected person or simply by visiting the market, said Pang Xinghuo, the deputy director of the Beijing Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

After the virus was detected on cutting boards for imported salmon, supermarket chains throughout the city discarded their stocks of salmon, according to the local news media.

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Officials said they would set up temporary open-air trading posts to maintain the availability of fruit and vegetables.

All 10,000 workers at the Xinfadi market will eventually be tested, according to The Beijing News, a state-controlled newspaper. Officials have already tested more than 1,900 workers at markets across the city, according to the city’s health commission.

The authorities had also used the language of a wartime mechanism to describe their response in Wuhan, where residents were virtually prohibited from leaving their apartments for more than two months.

Qiqing Lin contributed research.

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