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China races to contain a second wave of coronavirus cases in Beijing

Beijing district in lockdown over COVID-19 outbreak
Beijing district in "wartime mode" amid new outbreak of coronavirus 01:25

The new coronavirus outbreak in Beijing grew to 106 cases Tuesday, with 29 communities in the sprawling Chinese capital back on lockdown. Health officials confirmed another 27 COVID-19 cases on Tuesday, a smaller increase than in previous days but still a worrying resurgence after Beijing enjoyed almost two months without a single new infection.

Yet again, a coronavirus outbreak in China is linked to a food market. The vast Xinfadi wholesale market is at the epicenter of the country's latest battle against COVID-19.

The size of more than 250 football fields, Xinfadi claims to be the biggest wholesale food market in Asia, supplying up to 80% of the meat and vegetables to the capital's 22 million people.

Authorities moved quickly, erecting barricades to isolate neighborhoods known to heave infected people while launching a massive testing campaign targeting all of the market's workers, recent visitors and anyone they came into contact with — up to 200,000 people, on top of the 90,000 residents who live in the surrounding neighborhoods.

Beijing Rises Risk Level After 36 New Confirmed COVID-19 Cases
A nurse takes a sample to test for COVID-19 from a person who either visited or lives near the Xinfadi Market at a testing facility in Beijing, China, June 16, 2020. Lintao Zhang/Getty

At least as many people were also back on lockdown across Beijing by Tuesday. Authorities placed massive housing blocks under quarantine. Food deliveries were blocked from going no further than perimeter roadblocks.

This coronavirus resurgence and reaction is worryingly reminiscent of the unprecedented lockdown of Wuhan and the surrounding regions in central China that began in January. An estimated 35 million people were impacted by those strictly enforced measures after the world's first outbreak of the new coronavirus was discovered at a wholesale food market in the capital of Hubei province. 

China's chief epidemiologist Wu Zunyou has said the next few days will be critical to understanding how the virus is spreading - both in Wuhan and Beijing.

"These two events indicate that it starts from a market and also related to the seafood or meat," said Wu. "That environment, particularly the cold, wet environment, may be able to keep the virus alive for a long time."

Officials in Beijing are now barring residents who live in high-risk areas from leaving the capital. Taxis and ride-sharing services have also been banned from taking people outside the city.

Virus Outbreak China
Chinese police stand guard outside an entrance to the Xinfadi wholesale food market district in Beijing on June 13, 2020.  Mark Schiefelbein/AP

Those who have left have been ordered to report to local health officials as soon as possible.

Beyond Beijing, this new surge is not Asia's only flare-up: Japan's capital city of Tokyo has reported more than 20 new cases havens here day over the past six days. 

The surges in two of Asia's biggest capitals serve as a clear warning to America and all other countries: reopening risks reinfection.

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