New coronavirus cases raise fears in Beijing, markets closed

Beijing’s Xinfadi meat wholesale market and Jingshen seafood market, above, were closed on June 12, 2020 for disinfection after it emerged both were visited by two newly identified coronavirus patients. (AFP)
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Updated 12 June 2020

New coronavirus cases raise fears in Beijing, markets closed

  • Beijing’s Xinfadi meat wholesale market and Jingshen seafood market closed for disinfection

BEIJING: Beijing closed two markets on Friday and delayed the return of primary school students after three fresh coronavirus cases emerged in the capital — the first after two months of no infections in the city.
They raised fears of a resurgence after China had largely brought domestic coronavirus infections under control.
The majority of cases in recent months have been overseas nationals tested as they return home.
But local authorities announced one new case with no recent travel history outside the capital on Thursday, followed by two more on Friday.
The two latest patients are employees of the China Meat Research Center, city officials said at a daily press conference.
One of them had traveled to Qingdao in east China within the past two weeks.
Beijing’s Xinfadi meat wholesale market and Jingshen seafood market were closed Friday for disinfection and environmental sample collection after it emerged both were visited by the patients, local media reported.
Dozens of police officers were deployed to the two markets, which were cordoned off.
The coronavirus is believed to have been passed from an animal to humans at a market that sold wildlife in the central city of Wuhan late last year.
Beijing’s education commission said Friday it had canceled first, second and third-graders’ planned return to school on Monday — affecting some 520,000 students, the official Xinhua news agency reported.
The commission said students who had already returned to school would carry on lessons as normal, but with stricter anti-epidemic measures in place.
Beijing students have gradually resumed lessons in waves since late April, after schools had been closed for three months during the coronavirus outbreak.
The city’s last case before the recent spike was reported in mid-April.
In total, there have been 597 infections reported in the city — 174 of which were imported from overseas — and nine local deaths, according to official figures.
The recent announcements stoked fears on social media.
“Beijing will be out of control! Quick, improve the level of epidemic prevention! There may come a second wave!” wrote one user on the Twitter-like Weibo social network.
“I’m living in Fengtai district (where the latest cases live), trembling with fear ... Going to buy more masks. Hope it can be over soon!” said another.
Some called for mass COVID-19 testing in Beijing. China conducted similar testing campaigns on millions of residents in Wuhan.
Large-scale tests turned up 300 asymptomatic carriers in Wuhan as authorities declared the outbreak was essentially over.
To protect the capital, Beijing is redirecting international flights through other cities where passengers are quarantined and tested before being allowed to proceed.


Iran deal architect among veterans named for Biden State Department

Updated 16 January 2021

Iran deal architect among veterans named for Biden State Department

WASHINGTON: The lead US negotiator of the Iran nuclear accord and a battle-tested hawk on Russia were named Saturday to top posts at President-elect Joe Biden’s State Department, signaling a return to normal after Donald Trump’s chaotic presidency.
Wendy Sherman, who brokered the Iran accord under Barack Obama and negotiated a nuclear deal with North Korea under Bill Clinton, was named as deputy secretary of state.
Victoria Nuland, a former career diplomat best known for her robust support for Ukrainian protesters in the ouster of a Russian-aligned president, was nominated under secretary for political affairs — the State Department’s third-ranking post in charge of day-to-day US diplomacy.
Biden said that the State Department nominees “have secured some of the most defining national security and diplomatic achievements in recent memory.”
“I am confident that they will use their diplomatic experience and skill to restore America’s global and moral leadership. America is back,” Biden said in a statement.
The State Department team will work under secretary of state-designate Antony Blinken, whose confirmation hearing will take place on Tuesday on the eve of Biden’s inauguration.
Blinken said that the State Department team, with women and ethnic minorities in prominent positions, “looks like America.”
“America at its best still has a greater capacity than any other country on earth to mobilize others to meet the challenges of our time,” Blinken said.
The optimism comes amid rising doubts about US leadership in Trump’s waning days after his supporters ransacked the Capitol on January 6 to try to stop the ceremonial certification of Biden’s victory.
Under outgoing Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, a staunch defender of Trump, the United States has aggressively challenged Iran and China, robustly backed Israel and toyed with improving ties with Russian President Vladimir Putin, while also imposing sanctions on Moscow.
Sherman’s nomination marks another clear sign that Biden wants to return to the accord under which Iran drastically slashed its nuclear program in exchange for promises of sanctions relief.
Trump exited the deal in 2018 and imposed sweeping sanctions in what many observers saw as an unsuccessful attempt to topple the Shiite clerical regime.