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COVID-19 cases in Beijing reach 54 after eight new infections reported

Beijing: Coronavirus has returned to haunt Beijing as eight more new cases were reported on Sunday, taking the total number of infections in the last few days to 54, all linked to a wholesale market supplying vegetables and meat to 90 per cent of the city.

Significantly, the Beijing Centre for Diseases Prevention and Control (Beijing CDC) has said the genome sequencing of the strain of the coronavirus which caused the new COVID-19 outbreak in the Chinese capital at the Xinfadi wholesale food market shows it originated from the imported cases from Europe.

With the new cases, the total number of cases in China has gone up to 74 since Saturday, the highest in the country after the virus was brought under control in the first COVID-19 epicentre in April, this year.

The number of cases included 57 new confirmed COVID-19 infections and nine asymptomatic cases, the officials of the China's National Health Commission (NHC) said.

Beijing Municipal authority on Sunday said eight new cases were reported in the capital city.

China's civil aviation regulator on Sunday that China Southern Airlines' flight from Dhaka to Guangzhou would be suspended after 17 passengers had tested positive for COVID-19 on a June 11 flight, state-run Xinhua news agency reported.

Also on Saturday, nine new asymptomatic cases were reported, it said.

Currently, 103 people with asymptomatic symptoms are kept under quarantine.

Asymptomatic cases are also known as silent spreaders as the patients are tested COVID-19 positive but develop no symptoms such as fever, cough or sore throat. However, they pose a risk of spreading the disease to others.

As all the new cases in Beijing were linked to Xinfadi market in south Beijing's Fengtai District, health officials appealed to people who had visited the market since May 30 to undergo nucleic acid tests.

The sudden increase in cases has sparked concerns that China may be on the cusp of rebound of COVID-19, belying experts' predictions that a second wave may hit the country during the winter starting from October.

All hospitals in Beijing have been ordered to perform nucleic acid and antibody tests, a CT scan and a routine blood test on patients with a fever, Gao Xiaojun, spokesperson of Beijing's health commission told the media on Sunday.

So far, the local government has closed six wholesale markets and made alternate arrangement for vegetable supplies to the retail stores.

Beijing has tightened COVID-19 control measures and officials in the Chinese capital have initiated "wartime" measures, focusing on a wholesale food market where the new cluster of infections was reported.

The Beijing local government said earlier that health workers detected the virus in 40 samples collected at Xinfadi, including from cutting boards used to prepare imported salmon.

Wu Zunyou, the chief epidemiologist at the Chinese Centre for Disease Control and Prevention said the source of the latest outbreak could be either contaminated seafood or meat from the market, or a visitor or worker who had contracted the virus unknowingly.

Yang Peng, a researcher from Beijing CDC told state-run CCTV that it has been preliminarily determined that the virus found on the samples from the market is related to strains China has seen from imported cases. Genome sequencing showed that the coronavirus came from Europe.

Thousands of overseas Chinese are currently returning home with few testing positive.

Yang said that the source of the virus is still being traced and it is not known how it entered the market.

Beijing's Fengtai district will conduct nucleic acid tests on more than 46,000 residents living in communities near the Xinfadi market, where a total of 51 confirmed cases in the capital city were traced to, government officials said.

The district has set up 24 nucleic acid testing stations. Currently, 10,881 residents have been tested, district authorities said.

As of Sunday afternoon, authorities said that 394 close contacts related to the Xinfadi market had been tracked, 242 of whom are from Fengtai district. At present, 111 people are quarantined in designated places, and the rest are in isolation at home.

As of Saturday, the overall confirmed cases on the mainland had reached 83,132, including 129 patients who are still being treated, with one in severe condition.

Altogether, 78,369 people have been discharged after recovery and 4,634 people have died of the disease, the NHC said.

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