China stresses on ‘urgent need’ to improve hygiene in markets

China on Thursday stressed on the “urgent need” to improve hygiene in its wholesale markets and in the food supply chain after a new COVID-19 outbreak in Beijing has resulted in 158 confirmed cases.

The Chinese capital on Tuesday night increased the level of emergency response by COVID-19 in an attempt to curb the massive spread of the outbreak, which broke out on June 11 in the main wholesale market in Xinfadi.

As indicated by the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection of the Communist Party of China (CCP) in a report published on its website, “there is an urgent need for the country to improve sanitation standards and minimize health risks in the markets”.

“The epidemic is a mirror that not only reflects the dirty and disorganized aspect of the wholesale markets, but also shows the low level of its management,” said the report.

The coronavirus was first detected in the Huanan seafood market in the Chinese city of Wuhan, while in Beijing the outbreak was found in Xinfadi, which covers an area of 112 hectares and has 1,500 employees and more than 4,000 owners.

“Most markets were built 20 or 30 years ago, when sewage drainage and treatment were relatively underdeveloped,” the report added.

It remains to be seen if the country will take decisive measures to improve hygiene in this type of establishment and in the so-called underground and semi-underground markets, closed and humid spaces where there is hardly any ventilation.

Meanwhile, the city continued to apply extraordinary measures to stem the new outbreak: City spokesman Xu Hejian told a news conference on Thursday, adding that more tests will be done on residents and that 87,000 nucleic acid tests have already been conducted in the district of Fengtai, where the Xinfadi Market is located.

Similary, the employees of all the restaurants, universities and markets of the capital will continue to be tested, these establishments will also be disinfected, and until Wednesday 356,000 tests had been carried out, according to municipal authorities.

In addition, those who have visited the Xinfadi market since May 30 and those who have maintained contact with those who work there should undergo two coronavirus tests, one before and the other after being isolated for 14 days in their communities.

The spokesperson reiterated that the city is in a “critical” state pending the completion of epidemiological investigations and the extent of the outbreak.

Therefore, people who have tested positive for COVID-19, close contacts, asymptomatic cases, people who show symptoms, those who have had contact with the market and residents in high and medium risk areas may not leave the city.

So far, only the Huaxiang neighbourhood, where the market is located, is considered a high-risk area, while 32 medium-risk areas have been declared throughout the city.

In Huaxiang, hotels and other hospitality establishments will remain closed until further notice, the spokesperson added.

The deputy director of municipal Public Security, Pan Xuhong, indicated in the same press conference that “the restrictions do not mean that the city has been sealed”, and that the objective is “to prevent the virus from spreading through the capital or reaching other cities”.

The undersecretary-general of the municipal government, Chen Bei, announced on Tuesday that the city was going from the third to the second level of emergency, with which, among other measures, neighbouring communities recheck the identity and health status of the residents and take their temperature.

Although the second level of emergency does not include it, inter-provincial flights have also been suspended with more than 60 per cent of inbound and outbound flights were cancelled on Thursday.

All face-to-face classes have also been cancelled and residents were advised to work from home.

As of Thursday morning, the overall confirmed cases on the mainland had reached 84,458, including 265 patients who were still being treated, with nine in severe condition.

A total of 4,638 people have so far died of the disease.