Beijing embarks on titanic operation to contain covid cluster

(Update 1: Changes headline, lead and adds detail throughout)

By Javier García

Beijing, Jun 17 (efe-epa).- Beijing rolled out unprecedented measures and restrictions on Wednesday to contain a second coronavirus outbreak which originated in a large wholesale food market.

Authorities have embarked on a titanic operation to test employees of tens of thousands of restaurants and small food stalls, students at dozens of university campuses and hundreds of food markets in Beijing.

Since Saturday, 356,000 nucleic acid tests have been carried out, according to Zhang Qiang, head of the municipal prevention team.

Zhang said health workers, those who live in residential complexes where there have been confirmed cases, officials, teachers and students who have resumed classes will all be tested.

Some 355,000 people with a connection to the Xinfadi wholesale food market, ground zero of the new cluster, will also be tested.

So far 137 infections have been recorded in Beijing in the last six days, 31 in the last 24 hours, four more than the previous day.

According to Zhang, Beijing can perform 400,000 tests every day, a capacity that will be further increased to meet demand.

A mobile P3 virus lab installed in a large truck has been dispatched to the capital to help tackle the epidemic.

China has around 20 of these mobile testing units that are specialized in the diagnosis and research of particularly virulent and easily transmitted pathogens.

The virus lab en-route to the virus-struck Fengtai district in Beijing has the capacity to perform a thousand daily tests and was deployed in other Chinese provinces during the pandemic.

A total of 98 hospitals and health centers have been enabled throughout the city of 22 million inhabitants to carry out the mass testing program.

The city on Tuesday raised the response alert to level two from three (on a scale of one to four) but has implemented much stricter measures than those stipulated at level two, meaning a ‘severe’ public health event.

Interprovincial flights have been suspended and classes have been canceled at all levels, after resuming over a month ago.

A total of 1,255 inbound and outbound flights have been canceled since Tuesday.

Beijing has disinfected 276 markets for agricultural products, closed 11 underground and semi-underground markets in addition to 33,173 home food delivery services.

Libraries, museums and parks will open from Wednesday for a limited period and at 30 percent capacity.

Some areas of the capital have raised the response alert to level one, including the Fengtai district where the massive market is located and in some residential complexes in Fengtai and southwestern Beijing where all tenants are quarantined at home.

People living in any of the nine districts where new outbreaks have been detected have been banned from leaving the city.

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