June 16 (EIRNS)—Chinese authorities are moving aggressively to contain the outbreak of COVID-19 that recently appeared in the giant Xinfadi market in Beijing, using intense testing, contact tracing, and quarantine measures. By June 15 Beijing had set up nearly 200 testing sites and contacted about 200,000 people who had visited the Xinfadi market since the end of May, Xinhua reported. The lockdown has also been extended to 21 residential compounds close to the market where the outbreak first appeared. Indoor sporting and entertainment venues across Beijing have been ordered to close, as have many schools. Xinhua continued: “More than 8,000 dealers and workers at the Xinfadi market have received nucleic acid tests as of early Sunday and been put under medical observation, according to Xu Ying, an official with the Beijing municipal committee of the Communist Party of China.”
“The epidemic situation in the capital is extremely severe,” Beijing city spokesman Xu Hejian warned at a press conference. “Right now we have to take strict measures to stop the spread of COVID-19.”
Various media report that several Chinese cities have warned residents not to travel to Beijing, and some have announced that they will quarantine new arrivals from the capital.
Mike Ryan, the Executive Director of the WHO’s Health Emergencies Program, stated yesterday that the WHO is working “very closely with authorities in China to understand what exactly the risks are here and will issue any guidance internationally accordingly.” He cautioned against jumping to conclusions as to either the chain of transmission or the necessary measures to be adopted, saying this is all under study. Attention to date has been focused on frozen salmon imported from Scandinavia, including the packaging in which it was shipped.
“Beijing is a large city and a very dynamic and connected city, so there’s always a concern and I think you can see that level of concern in the response of the Chinese authorities,” Ryan said, emphasizing the “immediate response” and “comprehensive set of measures” Beijing has taken.
“Clearly there has been much research done on the potential for coronaviruses and other viruses to survive on many surfaces including packaging,” he said, adding that he is currently “reticent to be in a position where all packaging and other things would need to be systematically tested. We need to understand what has actually happened in this circumstance before issuing major policies on this,” he said, noting that governments, based on the information they have, could “issue whatever testing requirements are needed for the safety of citizens.” [dns]