SHANGHAI: Beijing banned tourism, locked down 11 residential estates and shuttered a wholesale market after a fresh cluster of COVID-19 cases sparked fears of a new wave of infections.
Chu Junwei, an official of Beijing's southwestern Fengtai district, told a briefing on Saturday (Jun 13) that the district was in "wartime emergency mode".
Throat swabs from 45 people, out of 517 tested at the district's Xinfadi wholesale market, had tested positive for the new coronavirus, though none of them showed symptoms of COVID-19, Chu said.
A city spokesman told the briefing that all six COVID-19 patients confirmed in Beijing on Friday had visited the Xinfadi market. The capital will suspend sports events and inter-provincial tourism effective immediately, he said. Nine nearby schools and kindergartens have been closed.
One person at an agricultural market in the city's northwestern Haidian district also tested positive for the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 without showing symptoms, Chu said.
Authorities closed the Xinfadi market at 3am on Saturday, after two men working at a meat research centre who had recently visited the market were reported on Friday to have contracted COVID-19.
"Preliminary judgment suggests these cases may have come into contact with a contaminated environment in the market, or were infected after being in contact with infected people. We cannot rule out subsequent cases in the future," said Pang Xinghuo, an official at the Beijing Center for Disease Control.
Concern is growing of a second wave of the new virus, even in many countries that seemed to have curbed its spread. It was first reported at a seafood market in Wuhan, the capital of central China's Hubei province, in December.
Beijing authorities had earlier halted beef and mutton trading at the Xinfadi market, alongside closures at other wholesale markets around the city.
The chairman of the Xinfadi market told state-run Beijing News that the virus was detected on chopping boards used to handle imported salmon.
Reflecting concerns over the risk of further spread of the virus, major supermarkets in Beijing removed all stocks of salmon from their shelves overnight.
Beijing authorities said more than 10,000 people at the market will take nucleic acid tests to detect coronavirus infections. The city government also said it had dropped plans to reopen schools on Monday for students in grades one through three because of the new cases.
It also said restaurants would be inspected and checks made on seafood products and fresh and frozen meats.