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The meat and seafood trading sections of Xinfadi market, Asia’s largest wet market selling meat, fish, fruit and vegetables, were found to be seriously contaminated with the coronavirus, an official report has found. Officials also suspect the area’s low temperature and high humidity may have contributed to the spread of the virus.
Last week, Beijing saw a huge surge in the number of coronavirus cases, despite reporting no new infections for nearly 60 days.
More than 100 people tested positive for the deadly virus, raising fears that a second wave of infections was on the way.
The new infections were linked to the Xinfadi food centre, which spans about 250 football pitches in the city’s Fengtai District.
The market was immediately closed after the outbreak, and a report has now confirmed that the food centre was seriously contaminated with the disease.
Wu Zunyou, chief epidemiologist at the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, said the majority of patients who had contracted the virus worked at either the seafood and aquatic stalls, or beef and mutton section.
Mr Zunyou said patients from the seafood market showed symptoms earlier than others.
He added that the low temperatures and high humidity might explain why the sections were found to be a source of the outbreak.
But the scientist cautioned further investigation was necessary to prove this.
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After having no new confirmed COVID-19 cases for 57 days, 137 domestically spread infections were identified in Beijing between June 11 to 16, according to Xinhua, China’s official state-run press agency.
On Friday the capital recorded a further 25 new cases, taking the total to 183 over the past week.
The vast majority of the cases were linked to Xinfadi.
On Sunday, Xu Hejian, a spokesperson for the local government, said all personnel at the market and nearby residents would be tested for the coronavirus and put under medical observation.
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Chen Bei, deputy secretary-general of the Beijing municipal government, told a press conference on Tuesday: “The epidemic situation in Beijing remains grim and the city has reported a daily double-digit increase in domestically transmitted COVID-19 cases in recent days.”
In response to the outbreak, Chinese officials indicated that foreign fish was to blame after finding traces of coronavirus on a cutting board used by a vendor of imported salmon.
As a result, China halted imports from European salmon suppliers.
But the government later rowed back on the claims.
In response to the new outbreak, Beijing raised its emergency threat level to the second highest, which resulted in the implementation of a series of travel restrictions.
Those who wish to enter the city must follow a series of steps, including temperature and health code checks, have a registered pass, and provide their name.
People wishing to leave the city are required to have a negative test result issued in the past seven days.
Schools have been told to return to online teaching, and large events have been cancelled.
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