According to the city’s health authority, contact tracing showed all the infected people had either worked or shopped inside Xinfadi, said to be the largest food market in Asia, or had been in contact with someone who was there.
“Beijing has entered an extraordinary period,” city spokesman Xu Hejian told a news conference on Sunday.
The market was closed before dawn on Saturday and the district containing the market put itself on a “wartime” footing.
The Beijing outbreak has already spread to the neighbouring north-eastern province of Liaoning, where the provincial health authority said the two new cases confirmed on Sunday were both people who had been in close contact with confirmed cases in Beijing.
At least 10 Chinese cities, including Harbin and Dalian, have urged residents not to travel to the capital or to report to authorities if they have done so recently.
Huaxiang, a neighbourhood in the same district as the food market and which has one of China’s biggest used car centres, raised its epidemic risk level to high on Sunday, becoming the only neighbourhood in the country to be on high alert. This status means there can be no economic activity until the outbreak is controlled.
As of 3pm on Sunday, 10 neighbourhoods in Beijing had raised their risk levels from low to medium.
‘No second Wuhan’
“Beijing will not turn into a second Wuhan, spreading the virus to many cities all over the country and needing a lockdown,” a government epidemic expert told Health Times on Sunday, referring to the city where the epidemic in China first emerged late last year.
Zeng Guang, former chief epidemiologist at Chinese Centre for Disease Control and Prevention and currently a senior expert with the National Health Commission, said the outbreak will likely be controlled after an initial spike, according to the report by Health Times, a paper run by state media People’s Daily.
An epidemiologist with the Beijing government said on Sunday that a DNA sequencing of the virus showed the latest outbreak in the market could have come from Europe.
“Our preliminary assessment is the virus came from overseas. We still can’t determine how it got here. It might have been on contaminated seafood or meat, or spread from the faeces of people inside the market,” state media quoted Yang Peng as saying.
Long queues for tests formed outside a hospital near the market on Sunday.
Beijing health authority spokesman Gao Xiaojun said on Sunday that anyone in the city with a fever would be given tests for the coronavirus, as well as a blood test and a CT scan.
Cases on the rise in Bangladesh
Bangladesh reported 3141 new cases and 32 more deaths from the coronavirus on Sunday, raising its total caseload to 87,520, including 1171 fatalities.
Nasima Sultana, from the Health Directorate, said a junior minister in Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s cabinet and a former health minister had both died from the virus in Dhaka, the capital.
Bangladesh’s main state-run hospitals are overwhelmed, with many critical COVID-19 patients being deprived of intensive care beds and ventilators.
South Korea reports 34 new cases
South Korea has confirmed 34 new cases of the coronavirus on Sunday, mostly in the densely populated Seoul metropolitan area.
The country now has 12,085 cases, including 277 deaths. The new cases have been linked to nightclubs and bars, church services, a large-scale e-commerce warehouse and door-to-door salespeople.
In late February and early March, South Korea was reporting hundreds of new cases each day before improving the situation significantly with aggressive contact tracing. That’s now proving to be more challenging as authorities ease up on social distancing rules.