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Lockdowns Ordered As COVID-19 Cluster Found Near Beijing Food Market


Weeks after declaring victory over the pandemic, China is fighting it again. The latest high-profile outbreak is in the capital, Beijing. NPR's Emily Feng reports.

EMILY FENG, BYLINE: The last of the temperature checks and pesky health registrations outside Beijing housing and commercial complexes had just started to disappear when the new cluster of virus cases was discovered. All 79 cases were traced back to a single place - the sprawling Xinfadi wholesale market. It touts itself as the largest fresh produce market in all of Asia. It moves thousands of tons of vegetables, fruit and seafood each day to feed Beijing's 23 million residents.

Authorities are moving quickly. Here's Li Junjie, a deputy district director in Beijing.


LI JUNJIE: (Speaking Chinese).

FENG: Li says authorities have now tested nearly 75,000 people in and around the market. At least 79 people tested positive and have symptoms. Dozens more tested positive but are asymptomatic. They're being monitored in quarantine to ascertain whether they really are sick.

Eleven residential communities nearby are completely sealed off, and large gatherings and Beijing are being canceled again. So far, the outbreak appears largely contained in Beijing, but a handful of cases linked back to the market have popped up in two neighboring provinces. China says it's still investigating how the virus resurfaced. Its theory so far is it came from outside China.


YANG PENG: (Speaking Chinese).

FENG: Yang Peng, an expert at Beijing's center for disease control, told China's most prominent state news program Sunday night, samples of the virus taken at the market showed it likely came from Europe, possibly a meat or seafood imported into China. The U.S. CDC says there is currently no evidence to support such a theory, and China says further investigation is needed. Regardless, China's claim could prompt more division between the U.S., Europe and China over who is responsible for the virus and who handled it better.

Emily Feng, NPR News, Beijing.

(SOUNDBITE OF TRISTAN DE LIEGE'S "ARCHES") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Emily Feng is NPR's Beijing correspondent.