Mass virus testing in Beijing after new cluster triggers lockdowns

A woman stands behind a fence in the Yilanyuan residential area which is under lockdown after a new COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak near the closed Xinfadi Market in Beijing. (AFP)
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Updated 14 June 2020

Mass virus testing in Beijing after new cluster triggers lockdowns

  • The new outbreak of infections has been linked to a wholesale food market in the Chinese capital
  • Virus breakouts linked with food markets have raised questions over the hygiene of the food supply chain in China

BEIJING: Beijing carried out mass testing for the coronavirus on Sunday after a new outbreak in the city that prompted travel warnings across the country amid fears of a resurgence of the disease.
The deadly contagion had been brought largely under control in China through strict lockdowns that were imposed early this year but have since been lifted.
But a fresh cluster linked to a wholesale food market in the capital has sparked widespread alarm and raised the spectre of a return to painful restrictions.

The National Health Commission (NHC) reported 57 new infections on Sunday, of which 36 were local transmissions in Beijing, all linked to the Xinfadi market.
Another two domestic infections were in northeastern Liaoning province and were close contacts of the Beijing cases.
The 19 other infections were among Chinese nationals returning from abroad.
Liaoning was among several provinces to advise residents against traveling to Beijing due to the new outbreak — along with cities such as nearby Tianjin and several in Hebei province, which surrounds Beijing.
Some local authorities said people entering from Beijing would have to quarantine, state media reported.
In the capital, lockdowns have been imposed on a very small part of the city that includes 11 residential estates near the market which supplies most of the city’s fresh produce.
Officials said Sunday they planned to carry out virus tests on 46,000 residents in the area surrounding the market and had set up 24 testing stations.
Everyone who works at Xinfadi also has to undergo testing.
So far 10,881 people have been tested in the area with another eight cases diagnosed on Sunday. They were not included in the NHC’s tally earlier in the day that covered the previous 24 hours.
“I went to Xinfadi market so I want to confirm that I am not infected,” a 32-year-old woman surnamed Guo told AFP as she queued in scorching heat at a stadium waiting for a virus test.
“We were told that after the tests... if it is positive, we will be taken directly to the hospital.”
One of Sunday’s new cases was a 56-year-old man who works as an airport bus driver and had visited the Xinfadi market in early June before later falling ill, state-run People’s Daily reported.
The meat section of the huge, sprawling market was closed Sunday and AFP reporters saw hundreds of police officers and security personnel plus dozens of paramilitary police blocking access.
Efforts to trace those who had visited the market have begun, with companies and neighborhood communities messaging staff and residents across the city to ask about their recent movements.
A vegetable market adjacent to Xinfadi was open Sunday and trucks were arriving to deliver or collect stock.
“Afraid? Not really” a delivery driver surnamed Zhang told AFP.
“But anyway I have no choice — I am part of the lowest class of society. So I have to keep working in order to make a living.”
In nearby streets, residents were under lockdown and restaurants closed.
Some people used a wooden stepladder propped against the gated entrance to one community to pass supplies to loved ones.
A resident surnamed Chen told AFP he had made several trips with his car to the front gate of his compound to deliver food.
“As soon as I finish delivering the supplies to my family members, I will go upstairs to join them,” he said.
“After that I won’t be able to get out.”
COVID-19 first emerged late last year and one of the first clusters was from a market in the central city of Wuhan that sold wild animals for meat.
The latest outbreak in Beijing has turned the spotlight on the hygiene of the city’s food supply chain.
State-run media reported that the virus was detected on chopping boards used to handle imported salmon, and that major supermarkets had removed the fish from their stocks.
Beijing authorities ordered a city-wide food safety inspection focusing on fresh and frozen meat, poultry and fish in supermarkets, warehouses and catering services.
One trader surnamed Sun, selling tomatoes and cherries at a central food market, told AFP there were fewer customers than normal.
“People are scared,” he said.
City authorities have closed nine schools and kindergartens near Xinfadi, while sporting events and cross-provincial tour groups have been stopped.


At least two killed as car ploughs into pedestrian zone in German town

Updated 01 December 2020

At least two killed as car ploughs into pedestrian zone in German town

  • The driver was arrested and the vehicle was impounded, Trier police tweeted
  • Two people have died, and 15 others had suffered serious injuries

BERLIN: At least two people including a child were killed and up to 15 injured on Tuesday when a speeding car ploughed into a pedestrian area in the western German city of Trier, authorities said.
Witnesses said people screamed in panic and some were thrown into the air by the car as it crashed through the shopping zone.
Police said several people had been killed, having earlier put the death toll at two, with more than 10 injured. The local newspaper, the Trierischer Volksfreund, put the death toll at four, including a child, but police did not confirm that figure.
"We have arrested one person, one vehicle has been secured," police said, adding that a 51-year-old German suspect from the Trier area was being questioned, police said.
Mayor Wolfram Leibe had rushed to the scene.
"We have a driver who ran amok in the city. We have two dead that we are certain of and up to 15 injured, some of them with the most severe injuries," he told public broadcaster SWR.
"I just walked through the city centre and it was just horrible. There is a trainer lying on the ground, and the girl it belongs to is dead," he told a news conference, with tears stopping him from speaking further.
He told broadcaster N-TV that people who saw the incident were "totally traumatised" and the street "looks a bit like after a war".
Leibe said he did not know the motive for the incident, which shocked residents of Germany's oldest town, founded by the Romans more than 2,000 years ago.
The Trierischer Volksfreund quoted an eyewitness as saying a Range Rover was driving at high speed and people had been thrown through the air. It said the car had Trier plates.
It reported that people screamed in panic when the car drove through the street.
Officers were scouring the area in search of evidence, backed by police dressed in flak jackets and carrying rifles. On the streets, Christmas lights twinkled incongruously.
Germany has tightened security on pedestrian zones across the country since a truck attack on a Berlin Christmas market in 2016 that killed 12 people and injured dozens.
In October 2019, a man opened fire on a synagogue in the city of Halle. After failing to get into the building he went on a rampage outside, killing two people.
In February this year a racist gunman killed nine migrants in Hanau near Frankfurt before killing his mother and himself. Only about a week later, a local man ploughed his car into a carnival parade in the town of Volkmarsen, injuring 61.
Germany has tightened measures to fight the coronavirus, with bars and restaurants closed, but shops and schools are still open.
"What happened in Trier is shocking. Our thoughts are with the relatives of the victims, with the numerous injured and with everyone who is currently on duty to care for the victims," Steffen Seibert, a spokesman for Chancellor Angela Merkel, said on Twitter.