Beijing on alert to control fresh coronavirus outbreak

By Jesús Centeno

Beijing, June 19 (efe-epa).- Beijing has maintained a state of alert and continued testing its residents for Covid-19 after nearly 200 fresh cases were detected due to a new outbreak last week in the Chinese capital’s wholesale food market, although the spread has already been brought under control, according to experts.

Since the fresh cluster of cases, Beijing has registered 183 cases of the disease, out of which two are critical and 11 are serious, city authorities said on Friday.

Across the country, there are 293 active cases of the new coronavirus and 5,856 people are under observation and required to quarantine themselves for 14 days, according to official figures.

Meanwhile, tests continue to be carried out among employees of restaurants, universities, and markets, while restrictions have been maintained on leaving the capital.

Residents of areas designated as high-risk are not allowed to leave, and all city residents are advised against traveling except for pressing matters.

Anybody wanting to leave the capital needs to acquire a certificate of good health and present a negative coronavirus test result carried out within seven days before the departure.

Since the municipal authorities announced on Tuesday that the emergency response alert level was being raised from three to two, local communities have resumed checking the identity and health symptoms of residents.

Moreover, all educational classes requiring physical presence have been suspended and residents have been advised to work from home, while the high-risk areas have been sealed with nobody allowed to exit the zone.

The State Council of China (the executive) on Friday released a series of guidelines to prevent the spread of the virus over the summer and advised citizens to regularly check and clean their air conditioners.

An official said that this could be crucial, as there was a risk of infection if the virus circulates through the air.

The government emphasized that people should get used to being “flexible” and comply with the measures put in place according to the alert level.

Regarding the outbreak in Beijing, where the virus was detected on a salmon cutting board as per preliminary reports, and the risk associated with it, the official said there was no evidence that people would be infected by eating contaminated food “including seafood”.

He added that the risk of catching the virus by eating imported food was extremely low, and there were no recommendations for restricting the food chain, adding that one should maintain a “scientific attitude.”

However, he said that it was better not to touch fish or raw meat.

Preliminary investigations by Chinese scientists show that the strain of the virus found at a large scale at Beijing’s Xinfadi market may have originated in Europe, but it was still not clear how it reached there.

“The virus can exist in low temperatures for a very long time and can somehow find its way into cold-chain logistics. The latest outbreak shows this adaptable virus has gotten a step ahead of our inspection and quarantine deployment,” Li Guoxiang, a researcher at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, told official daily Global Times.

Another researcher Liu Jun said they had taken samples from walls, refrigerator surfaces, fish tanks, and other surfaces to conclude the outbreak’s origins.

“If the virus is found in sealed frozen food, it would prove the virus was transported to the market via a cold chain,” said Liu.

Global Times has warned that the import of frozen food could be seriously affected by the outbreak, as Chinese consumers might choose to stay away from these products.

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