Parts of Beijing were placed under lockdown on Saturday as six new domestic coronavirus cases were reported, fuelling fears of a resurgence in local transmission.
People were prevented from leaving their homes under a virtual curfew at 11 residential estates in south Beijing´s Fengtai district after most of the cases were linked to a nearby meat market, city officials said in a press briefing.
Beijing´s first COVID-19 case in two months, announced on Thursday, had visited Xinfadi meat market last week and had no recent travel history outside the city.
China´s domestic outbreak had been brought largely under control through vast, strict lockdowns that were imposed after the disease was first detected in the central city of Wuhan last year.
These measures had largely been lifted as the infection rate dropped, and the majority of cases reported in recent months were citizens living abroad who were tested as they returned home during the pandemic, international media reported.
Among the six new domestic cases announced Saturday were three Xinfadi market workers, one market visitor and two employees at the China Meat Research Centre, seven kilometres away. One of the employees had visited the market last week.
Authorities closed the market, along with another seafood market visited by one of the patients, for disinfection and sample collection on Friday. Hundreds of police officers and dozens of paramilitary police were deployed at the two markets.
The chairman of the Xinfadi meat wholesale market told state-run Beijing News that the virus was detected on chopping boards used to handle imported salmon, stoking fears over the hygiene of Beijing´s food supply.
Beijing´s market supervision authorities ordered a city-wide food safety inspection focusing on fresh and frozen meat, poultry and fish in supermarkets, warehouses and catering services.
According to latest international media reports, coronavirus pandemic has killed over 430,000 people since it emerged in China late last year. A total of 430,399 deaths have now been recorded from 7,817,294 cases.
The United States remains the country with the most recorded deaths at 117,643, ahead of Brazil which on Friday became the second worst-hit nation with 42,055 deaths. Britain is next with 41,662 deaths, followed by Italy (34,301) and France (29,398).
Brazil on Friday claimed the unenviable position of having the second-highest coronavirus death toll worldwide behind the United States, where several states have posted record daily case totals, signaling the crisis is far from over.
US and European stocks ended the week on an upswing after a rout sparked by the US data and fresh evidence of the economic damage caused by virus-related lockdowns, with British GDP shrinking by a record 20.4 percent in April.
Meanwhile, in several European countries, the focus shifted to the courts, and who might eventually be pinned with the blame for the global financial and health crisis.
In Italy, one of the countries hardest hit by the virus, prosecutors questioned Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte over his government´s initial response. In the country´s northern Lombardy region, an investigation has been launched into why a quarantined “red zone” was not enforced around two towns sooner.
India reported its biggest single-day jump in coronavirus cases on Saturday, adding 12,023 confirmed infections and taking the its total count to more than 321,000, according to data from the federal health ministry.
India is the fourth-worst affected country in the world, having surpassed the United Kingdom on Friday, with cases steadily increasingly despite a nationwide lockdown that began in late March and has since been loosened.
Confirmed cases in the worst-hit western state of Maharashtra moved past the 100,000 mark, data showed on Saturday. The national capital New Delhi, where the health system has also been reeling, saw more than 2,000 new cases. India has so far reported 9,205 deaths from the virus.
For days now, Spain´s daily coronavirus death toll has been on hold, generating widespread uncertainty about the real state of the epidemic that has claimed more than 27,000 lives.
The health ministry´s emergencies coordinator Fernando Simon, who for months has given a daily briefing on the pandemic´s evolution, acknowledged the “astonishment” and “confusion” generated by the figures.
On May 25, the ministry changed its method of collecting data on confirmed cases and fatalities, initially giving a daily death toll of between 50 and 100. But the figure then fell to fewer than five per day and on some days there were no deaths at all.
Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez even told parliament there had been “no deaths” for several days, prompting a backlash from the right and the far-right who have since accused him of hiding the real number of fatalities.