A district of Beijing was on a “wartime” footing and the Chinese capital banned tourism on Saturday after a cluster of novel coronavirus infections sparked fears of a new wave of disease.
People were prevented from leaving their homes in 11 residential estates in south Beijing’s Fengtai district after most of the cases were linked to the district’s Xinfadi wholesale market, according to city officials.
The person infected with Beijing’s first COVID-19 case in two months, announced on Friday, had visited Xinfadi meat market last week and had no recent travel history outside the city.
Another six locally transmitted cases were reported on Saturday. Among them were three Xinfadi market workers, one market visitor and two employees at the China Meat Research Center, seven kilometres (four miles) away. One of the employees visited the market last week.
Authorities closed Xinfadi, along with another seafood market visited by one of the patients, for disinfection and sample collection.
Chu Junwei, an official of Beijing’s Fengtai district, said the district was in “wartime emergency mode”.
He added that 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.
China does not include asymptomatic cases in its infection tally.
“Xinfadi is the biggest wholesale market in the city,” said Al Jazeera’s Katrina Yu, reported from Beijing, before adding that authorities revealed a sample of the coronavirus was found on a table of a store owner who was selling seafood in the market.
Military police were sent into the Fengtai district to “seal it off” and many planned public gatherings and sporting events were now cancelled.
Nine nearby schools and kindergartens were also closed.
Beijing authorities said more than 10,000 people at the market will take nucleic acid tests to detect coronavirus infections.