Beijing — Officials in China’s sprawling capital have been told to maintain a “wartime” footing as new coronavirus cases stoke fears of a possible second wave of COVID-19 in the country where it all started. Beijing’s municipal government reported two new coronavirus cases on Friday, a day after they confirmed thewithout a single local transmission.
The two cases reported Friday are from Beijing’s Fengtai District, a different part of the capital from where the single case was announced on Thursday. The two newest patients surnamed, Liu and Yin, both male, are coworkers at the same unit of a food research center that works with meat.
Both men told authorities they’d had no recent contact with anyone from overseas or from the epicenter of China’s epidemic, the city of Wuhan in Hubei province. Liu visited China’s eastern city of Qingdao on a five-day business trip within the past two weeks, but the source their infections, along with the case reported on Thursday, remained unclear.
According to local media outlet Beijing News, owned by the government, a meat market in the area, the Xinfadi wholesale market, was shut down for testing and disinfection after it was determined that both the patient confirmed on Thursday and one of the cases announced on Friday had visited recently. The Jingshen seafood market, visited recently by one of the patients announced on Friday, closed for the same reason, according to Beijing News.
The Beijing Municipal Market Supervision Administration released a notice Friday saying city authorities would fully investigate the Xinfadi market and carry out comprehensive epidemic prevention control and food safety checks at all fresh and frozen meat markets across the capital. The new measures would also include enhanced supervision and inspections of restaurants.
Beijing city officials also announced that a special work unit was established on Thursday to carry out a comprehensive epidemiological investigation, including environmental sampling and testing and human contact tracing and testing in all areas where the new patients have recently visited.
They were also implementing strict lockdowns and control measures in the residential units and local communities where patients lived.
The three patients identified this week, all men, have been transferred to designated medical institutions for treatment while authorities carry out their investigations.
“Fengtai District will conduct a complete inspection and survey, disinfect the patients’ homes and communities, implement centralized quarantine for close contacts, and cut off transmission channels,” Fengtai District deputy mayor Zhang Jie said at a press briefing.
Beijing officials called for vigilance after the new cases were reported.
“Until there is final victory in epidemic prevention and control, it is necessary to maintain wartime status at all times and resolutely eliminate the possibility of an epidemic rebound,” Beijing government spokesperson Xu Hejian said at a Friday news conference.
“The risk of outbreaks exists anytime and anywhere, and prevention and control should not be relaxed,” warned a memo released by city leaders after a Thursday meeting on coronavirus prevention and control.
The new cases and heightened concern of a possible COVID-19 resurgence prompted Beijing authorities to cancel plans to reopen schools for students in grades 1 to 3 on June 15. It wasn’t made clear how long the move would be delayed. Some public venues, including cinemas and karaoke bars, were also to remain closed in spite of previous plans to allow them to reopen.
Public concern over a possible second wave of infections has flooded Chinese social media in recent days, with many users stressing the importance of wearing face masks and adhering to social distancing guidelines.
Coronavirus restrictions were lifted across Beijing on April 30, scrapping a mandatory 14-day quarantine for travelers from low-risk areas of China. The official emergency response was lowered to Level III last Saturday. Authorities and experts warn the risk of a possible second surge of coronavirus after the domestically transmitted cases emerging in the capital.