Health

COVID-19: Fresh Beijing cluster raises human-to-human transmission concerns

Chief epidemiologist at the Chinese CDC also pointed to influx of meat and seafood from across the country as cause for infection

 
By DTE Staff
Last Updated: Monday 15 June 2020
Beijing reported 46 fresh COVID-19 cases as on June 15, 2020. All of them have been linked to a seafood market. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

A fresh cluster of the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) that emerged in Beijing on June 13, 2020 and linked to a seafood market has raised concerns about human-to-human transmission.

As many as 36 new COVID-19 cases were confirmed on June 13 alone. According to the latest World Health Organization (WHO) report, the number was recorded at 46 as on June 15. The seafood market, Xinfadi, also Asia’s largest, has since been shut.  

Wu Zunyou, chief epidemiologist at the Chinese Centre for Disease Control, in a statement on June 13 said, “Our seafood products are typically stored and transported in cold containers, thus it is possible for the virus to be preserved for a long time and increase the likelihood of infecting people,” he said.

Wu added that Beijing’s new outbreak might have been caused due to the influx of meat and seafood to the market from all over the country.

Some of it may have been contaminated by workers during processing and transportation, from which the virus SARS-CoV-2 jumped from produce to people, China Daily quoted him as saying. 

The second possibility was person-to-person transmission. “The infected person who brought the virus into the market might be asymptomatic or have very mild symptoms. The hustle and bustle of the market led to a cluster of new infections,” he said.

While the market has been shut, a temporary lockdown has been imposed in areas close to the market and massive testing is going on.

This can spell fresh troubles for China, which has been trying hard to prevent a second wave of infection. This is different from the second wave as a fresh cluster of cases have appeared linked possibly to a seafood market. 

Chinese Vice-Premier Sun Chunlan warned of a possible high risk of spread. He called for “strictest epidemiological investigations” at and around the market and “thorough source tracing” to identify and control the source of infection.

In a statement put out last evening, the WHO said Chinese officials have informed it of on-going investigations into the source of the cluster as well as the extent of the current infection among contacts and others who visited the market in recent weeks.

“WHO recommends that thorough investigations continue to better understand the source of the cluster (exploring multiple hypotheses) and the extent of infection,” it said, adding the genome sequencing was underway. 

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