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Beijing district shuts down market after new coronavirus outbreak

Beijing has seen a new cluster of COVID-19 cases recently after 55 day-run without a locally transmitted case. Photo by Stephen Shaver/UPI
Beijing has seen a new cluster of COVID-19 cases recently after 55 day-run without a locally transmitted case. Photo by Stephen Shaver/UPI | License Photo

June 13 (UPI) -- Beijing shut down its biggest fruit and vegetable market Saturday amid a new cluster of COVID-19 cases and declared "wartime emergency mode" in one district.

More than 50 people have tested positive for COVID-19 in the new cluster, including more than 40 who showed no symptoms. The asymptomatic patients have been quarantined.

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The Beijing Health Commission reported four more patients with symptoms, bringing total symptomatic cases to seven. Two other symptomatic cases were announced Friday and one was announced Thursday.

The new cluster of cases ends Beijing's 55-day streak of no new local cases.

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The northeastern province of Liaoning also recently announced two new COVID-19 cases, where the patients had been in close contact with people infected in Beijing. Liaoning residents have been advised to avoid travel to Beijing.

Beijing's Center for Disease Control and Prevention Deputy Director Pang Xinghuo said all the cases have been linked to the Xinfadi Agricultural Products Wholesale Market in Fengtai district, in southern Beijing.

Officials shut down the market Saturday morning. Its meat and seafood section were already closed.

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Three of the four new symptomatic cases Saturday had been workers at the market and all four had been to the market before symptoms appeared.

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Fengtai's acting chief, Chu Junwei, said the district has a command center to oversee "wartime" restrictions in response to the new cluster of cases.

The lockdown includes 11 residential compounds surrounding the Xinfadi market and three primary schools and six kindergartens suspending classes, Chu said.

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Health commission spokesman Gao Xiaojun said everyone who had been to the market since May 30 would be tested.

Public health expert Feng Zhanchun, of Huazhong University of Science and Technology's Tongji Medical College in Wuhan, said the situation was similar to the early stages of the outbreak in Wuhan where infections from a seafood market spread citywide.

"If it can't be put under control right now, the virus will affect many people in a short time because of the high density of population in cities," Feng said.

China has 84,229 cases of COVID-19 and 4,638 deaths from it, according to the Johns Hopkins University global tracker.

The United States has the most cases at more than 2 million and the most deaths at over 114,700.

Brazil reported 909 new deaths on Friday, bringing the total number of COVID-19 deaths to 41,828, surpassing Britain for the second-highest number of fatalities from the virus worldwide. The number of cases increased by 25,982, bringing the total number to 828,810, also the second-highest number globally.

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A new study by researchers at the University of Pelotas in southern Brazil estimated six unreported COVID-19 cases for every one case reported across the 120 cities they studied in Latin America.

Meanwhile, other countries have been reporting new highs in daily cases, including Mexico reporting 5,222 new daily cases Friday, Chile announcing 6,754 and Argentina 1,391.

Chile also reached a new high for its daily death toll, reporting 222 deaths.

On Saturday, Chile's President Sebastian Pinera replaced Health Minister Jaime Manalich with Enrique Paris amid the new record death toll.

Paris previously served as director of the Toxicological Information Center of the Catholic University.

"The first mission of Minister Paris will be to fight the coronavirus, but he also has the job of leading a deep reform of the public and private health system," Pinera said.

Manalich's strategy to control the virus, included placing specific neighborhoods instead of entire cities in lockdown. Still, the government ended up putting all of Santiago on lockdown because of the increase in new cases last month.

Manalich had also initially backed immunity cards for people who have recovered from COVID-19, but scrapped the idea after warnings it could lead to discrimination.

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"It has been brought to our attention that the cards could trigger a severe problem of discrimination," Manalich said. "They would give a minority of people privileges when being hired, re-hired or simply entering public buildings."

France, on the other hand, has reported no rise in COVID-19 cases since a strict lockdown for eight weeks ended a month ago, The Guardian reported.

In response to the "favorable development of the health situation," Minister of Europe and Foreign Affairs Jean-Yves Le Drian and Minister for the Interior Christophe Castaner said in a joint statement Saturday that France will lift all traffic restrictions with its European internal borders on Monday.

Still, they noted exceptions for Spain and Britain. Spain has chosen to maintain traffic restrictions due to COVID-19 until June 21, and France will maintain those restrictions in agreement with Spanish authorities. Britain has set up rules for travelers to self-isolate for 14 days, and France, in reciprocity, said that travelers from Britain to France should still quarantine for two weeks after Monday.

France has reported 193,220 cases of COVID-19 and 29,377 deaths from the virus.

Globally, COVID-19 has infected more than 7.6 million people and killed more than 426,000 people.

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Visitors wear face masks as they tour the Whitney Museum of American Art as it reopens on September 3. Photo by John Angelillo/UPI | License Photo

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