By Chris Jewers for MailOline and AP
BEIJING — Chinese authorities were re-imposing some travel restrictions in the capital Tuesday as they worked to contain a new coronavirus outbreak and prevent it spreading more widely in a country that previously appeared to have largely contained the virus.
As re-openings from Europe to Latin America continued, the resurgence in China highlighted expert calls for vigilance in the fight against the pandemic.
China reported 40 more coronavirus infections on Tuesday, 27 of them in Beijing, bringing the city´s total to 106 since Friday. At least one patient was in critical condition and two were in serious condition.
Meanwhile, deputy director of the pathogen biology department at Wuhan University – Yang Zhanqiu – told state media that he believed the latest outbreak in Beijing involved a more infectious strain of the virus than the one which hit Wuhan at the start of the pandemic.
The country’s Vice Premier Sun Chunlan urged the city’s officials to impose ‘the strictest’ virus control measures to contain the spread of the virus, which has been linked to a massive food wholesale market called Xinfadi.
Virologist Yang believed that the new strain could be more infectious based on the high number of new cases in a short period of time, according to China’s state-run global times.
The Times reported that Yang believed that if the virus spreading in Beijing ‘matches the type of virus sampled in the Xinfadi market and from Europe’, then it was likely that it had been ‘imported’ into China by food or people from Europe.
Yang did warn that new strains of the virus make finding a vaccination more challenging, explaining: ‘No doubt different genotypes of the virus can cause the vaccine to be less effective, or even ineffective.
‘That means the vaccine would have to be effective against both viruses circulating in China and those in Europe, adding difficulty to developing a vaccine,’ he said.
Authorities have been testing market workers, anyone who visited the market in the past two weeks and anyone who came into contact with either group.
The Chinese capital, with a population of 21.5million, has locked down at least 11 neighbourhoods close to Xinfadi, with some areas being fenced off, and launched a mass-testing programme to screen all 46,000 people who have visited the market or live nearby.
Fresh meat and seafood in the city and elsewhere in China was also being inspected on the unlikely chance that was how the virus spread.
Residential communities around the market have been put under lockdown, along with the area around a second market, where three cases were confirmed. In all, 90,000 people are affected in the two neighborhoods in the city of 20 million.
Authorities are also barring residents of areas considered at high risk from leaving Beijing and those from such areas who have already left must report to local health bureaus as soon as possible.
Monday also saw the closure of all indoor sport and entertainment venues in Beijing, and players and coaches from the Beijing Super League football team were all tested and given the week off as their training camp is in the same area of the city as the outbreak.
‘The epidemic situation in the capital is extremely severe,’ Beijing spokesman Xu Hejian warned at a press conference. ‘Right now we have to take strict measures to stop the spread of Covid-19.’ (ia/MailOnline)