‘Lot of asymptomatic cases’: Top China infection expert on Covid-19 cluster

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COURTESY BY: https://www.hindustantimes.com/

The new cluster of Covid-19 infections in Beijing could have begun a month earlier than thought, a top infection expert has said as the capital on Thursday recorded 21 new cases, increasing the caseload to 158 in a week with nearly all the infections linked to a sprawling fresh food market in the southwestern Fengtai district.

Gao Fu, the director of the Chinese Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), said the outbreak probably did not occur in early June or late May, but probably a month earlier.

“A lot of asymptomatic or mild cases were detected in this outbreak and that is why the environment has such a large amount of virus,” Gao said at a seminar in Shanghai this week.

According to Gao, who has been at the forefront of China’s fight against the coronavirus outbreak since it emerged from the central Chinese city of Wuhan, added that it will “…lurk in some dark, humid, polluted environments, which may be unexpected”.

“After that, it will suddenly be exposed to many people within a certain period of time,” Gao said, adding this possibility needs further investigation.

Since last week, Beijing, a city of around 21 million residents, has been gradually rolling out more restrictions after a cluster infection emerged from the Xinfadi wholesale market.

The new cluster has again brought into focus hygiene levels in China’s food markets – it was to a seafood and meat market in Wuhan that the emergence of the pandemic was linked.

“The epidemic is a mirror that not only reflects the dirty and messy aspects of wholesale markets but also their low-level management conditions,” the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection said on Thursday.

Local authorities have conducted more than 3.5 lakh nucleic acid tests since Saturday, have suspended flights, schools and gatherings in the capital city and fenced off dozens of residential communities to contain the new surge in infections, which are causing worry across the world about difficulties in tackling the pandemic.

On Thursday, city authorities shut all hotels and restaurants in high-risk zones of Beijing.

More than a thousand flights from two airports in Beijing were cancelled on Wednesday.

The Beijing government has described the situation in the city as “grim”.

The Beijing Municipal Bureau of Sports issued an urgent notice on Wednesday, suspending sports events as well as closing certain gyms as the capital city.

According to the notice, all kinds of sports events will be suspended. Underground swimming pools and gyms will have to be closed.

“Basketball, volleyball, football and other group sports are forbidden,” the official news agency, Xinhua, reported quoting the notice.

The national health commission (NHC) has deployed in Beijing a team of experts with experience in fighting the outbreak in the central Chinese city of Wuhan where the coronavirus first emerged late last year.

The team will guide the local authorities in community management, tracing contacts and preventing the spread of the infection in hospitals.

Overall, 28 confirmed cases were detected in the mainland on Wednesday, including four imported ones.

North China’s Hebei province, bordering Beijing, reported two new Covid-19 cases and three asymptomatic patients on Wednesday, all of whom are related to the Beijing Xinfadi market.

Beijing’s neighbouring city Tianjin reported one new covid-19 case on Wednesday night; that of a 22-year-old man working at Tianjin’s Conrad Hotel, according to Chinese state media.

“The patient has been responsible for dishwashing since May 30, occasionally cleaning frozen seafood. All 93 close contacts have been quarantined for medical observation,” the state media report said.

Following Beijing’s decision to raise its epidemic response to Level II from Level III on Tuesday, and after four provinces reported confirmed cases related to the capital city’s new outbreak, 31 provinces and regions in China have tightened health checks on arrivals from Beijing.

At least one city, Harbin in northeast China, said arrivals from Beijing’s risk areas would have to go through a 14-day centralised quarantine, a week of home quarantine and four nucleic acid and one serum test during that period.

Overall, China has recorded 83293 cases and 4634 deaths from the infection until Wednesday.

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