Parts of Beijing locked down due to fresh virus cluster

Beijing’s Xinfadi meat wholesale market and Jingshen seafood market were closed for disinfection and environmental sample collection after it emerged both were visited by two newly identified coronavirus patients, local media reported. (AFP)
Updated 13 June 2020

Parts of Beijing locked down due to fresh virus cluster

BEIJING: Dozens of people tested positive for the coronavirus in Beijing as parts of the city were locked down Saturday after the emergence of a new cluster linked to a wholesale food market.
People were ordered to stay home at 11 residential estates in south Beijing’s Fengtai district and the nearby Xinfadi market was closed as authorities raced to contain the outbreak that has fueled fears of a resurgence in local transmission.
Most of the six new domestic infections reported Saturday were linked to the meat and vegetable market, the National Health Commission said.
But another 45 asymptomatic cases — which China counts separately — were detected after mass testing of nearly 2,000 workers at the market on Friday, city health official Pang Xinghuo later told reporters.
They have been placed under medical observation, Pang said.
Another worker tested positive at a farmers’ market in the city’s northwestern district of Haidian. They were a close contact of one of the confirmed cases linked to Xinfadi.
Beijing’s first COVID-19 case in two months, announced on Thursday, had visited Xinfadi market last week and had no recent travel history outside the city.
China’s domestic outbreak had been brought largely under control through vast, strict lockdowns that were imposed after the disease was first detected in the central city of Wuhan late last year.
These measures had mostly been lifted as the infection rate dropped, and the majority of cases reported in recent months were citizens living abroad who were tested as they returned home during the pandemic.
Among the six new domestic cases announced Saturday were three Xinfadi market workers, one market visitor and two employees at the China Meat Research Center, seven kilometers (four miles) away. One of the employees had visited the market last week.
Authorities closed the market, along with another seafood market visited by one of the patients, for disinfection and sample collection on Friday.
AFP reporters saw hundreds of police officers and dozens of paramilitary police deployed at the two markets, with no one allowed to leave Xinfadi.
Workers were seen hauling several crates of seafood out of Jingshen seafood market, also in Fengtai district.
Officials in Fengtai — which has more than two million residents — announced Saturday that the district has established a “wartime mechanism” and “field command center” to deal with the fresh wave.
Nine nearby schools and kindergartens have been closed. On Friday, Beijing delayed the return of students to primary schools across the city, and suspended all sporting events and group dining.
Cross-provincial tour groups have also been suspended.
The chairman of the Xinfadi market told state-run Beijing News that the virus was detected on chopping boards used to handle imported salmon, stoking fears over the hygiene of the city’s food supply.
Beijing’s market supervision authorities ordered a city-wide food safety inspection focusing on fresh and frozen meat, poultry and fish in supermarkets, warehouses and catering services.
Major supermarket chains including Wumart and Carrefour removed all stocks of salmon overnight in the capital, but said supplies of other products would not be affected, Beijing Daily reported Saturday.
Some Beijing restaurants were not serving any salmon on Saturday, according to AFP reporters.
On Saturday morning, community volunteers in various Beijing districts knocked on residents’ doors to ask if they had recently visited Xinfadi market.
Beijing authorities also announced a mass COVID-19 testing campaign of anyone who has had “close contact” with the Xinfadi market since May 30, after they tested over 5,000 environmental samples from farmers’ markets and large supermarkets across the city on Friday. Of those, all 40 positive samples came from Xinfadi market.


‘Disturbing’ allegations of rape in Ethiopia’s Tigray conflict: UN

Updated 22 January 2021

‘Disturbing’ allegations of rape in Ethiopia’s Tigray conflict: UN

  • A UN representative said she was greatly concerned by serious allegations from the northern region

ADDIS ABABA: The UN says it has received “disturbing” reports of sexual violence and abuse in Ethiopia’s conflict-hit Tigray region, including of individuals forced to rape members of their own family.
Pramila Patten, the UN’s special representative on sexual violence in conflict, said she was greatly concerned by serious allegations from the northern region, including “a high number of alleged rapes” in the Tigrayan capital Mekele.
“There are also disturbing reports of individuals allegedly forced to rape members of their own family, under threats of imminent violence,” Patten said in a statement Thursday.
“Some women have also reportedly been forced by military elements to have sex in exchange for basic commodities.”
Patten called on all parties involved in the hostilities to commit to a zero-tolerance policy for crimes of sexual violence.
Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, winner of the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize, announced military operations in Tigray in early November, saying they came in response to attacks by the regional ruling party on federal army camps.
Abiy declared victory after federal forces entered the regional capital in late November, though leaders of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) remain on the run and have vowed to fight on.
Thousands have died in the conflict, according to the International Crisis Group, though a communications blackout and media and humanitarian access restrictions have made it difficult to assess the situation on the ground.
In her statement Thursday, Patten noted that “medical centers have indicated an increase in the demand for emergency contraception and testing for sexually transmitted infections (STIs) which is often an indicator of sexual violence in conflict.”
She called for full humanitarian access to Tigray, including camps for displaced people “and refugee camps where new arrivals have allegedly reported cases of sexual violence.”
She voiced concern about “more than 5,000 Eritrean refugees in and around the area of Shire living in dire conditions, many of them reportedly sleeping in an open field with no water or food, as well as the more than 59,000 Ethiopians who have fled the country into neighboring Sudan.”
The caretaker administration in Tigray did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Earlier this month state television broadcast footage of a meeting during which an unidentified man in a military uniform expressed concern about rapes in Mekele.
“Why are women being raped in Mekele city?” the man said.
“It wouldn’t be shocking had it been happening during the war, because it is not manageable so it could be expected. But at this moment while federal police and local police are back in town, it is still happening.”