Sunday, March 7

Beijing’s new Covid-19 cases now 79, local officials sacked, govt to expand testing


The number of new confirmed Covid-19 cases have shot up to 79 in Beijing with health authorities adding 36 more to Sunday’s tally, the country’s health authorities announced early on Monday.

The National Health Commission (NHC) said on Monday that it received reports of 49 new confirmed Covid-19 cases on the Chinese mainland on Sunday, of which 39 were domestically transmitted and 10 were imported.

Of the domestically transmitted cases, 36 were reported in Beijing and three in Beijing’s bordering province, Hebei.

Since June 11, Beijing has recorded 79 new cases of Covid-19 after not reporting any for 55 days, triggering fears of a second wave of infections and pointing to the difficulties in curbing the pandemic raging globally.

Majority of the cases have been linked to the sprawling Xinfadi wholesale market – the biggest in Beijing – for vegetables, meat and seafood in the southwest of the city in the Fengtai district: The infected are either traders or buyers who visited the market.

A district head has been sacked and other local officials have been punished following the new cases, the government announced on Monday.

Zhou Yuqing, deputy head of Fengtai District, has been removed from the post for “failing” in his duty in Covid-19 prevention and control work.

The district has declared a state of “wartime management”, and authorities intend to test all 46,000 residents living in communities in the vicinity of Xinfadi market, Zhang Jie, deputy district head of Fengtai, said at a press conference on Sunday.

The market has been shuttered and 11 residential communities are under lockdown.

Three schools and six kindergartens nearby have been suspended.

According to a statement by the World Health Organisation (WHO) on the fresh cluster outbreak in Beijing, the “first identified case had symptom onset on June 9, and was confirmed on June 11.”

“Several of the initial cases were identified through six fever clinics in Beijing… Preliminary laboratory investigations of throat swabs from humans and environmental samples from Xinfadi Market identified 45 positive human samples (all without symptoms at the time of reporting) and 40 positive environmental samples. One additional case without symptoms was identified as a close contact of a confirmed case,” the WHO statement said.

Meanwhile, 17 out of 19 new imported coronavirus cases registered on Saturday came from South Asia.

“The sharp spike analysts said indicates that loosening restrictions and worsening contagion in the region poses a danger to the country’s domestic situation. The 17 patients were reported in South China’s Guangdong Province, with 14 flying from Bangladesh and three from India,” a state media report said.

As of Sunday, the overall confirmed cases on the mainland had reached 83,181 including 177 patients who were still being treated, with two in severe condition.

Altogether 78,370 people had been discharged after recovery and 4,634 people had died of the disease, the NHC said in its daily bulletin.

By Sunday, the Chinese mainland had reported a total of 1,837 imported cases. Of the cases, 1,745 had been discharged from hospitals after recovery, and 92 remained hospitalised. No deaths from the imported cases had been reported, official news agency, Xinhua said, quoting the NHC.