For 55 days, the Chinese capital has not reported locally transmitted infections and life is returning to normal. Businesses and schools reopened, people returned to work, and public transport and parks were again filled with crowds.
The outbreak of infections in Beijing, the seat of power of the Communist Party and previously considered one of the safest cities in the country, is a remarkable reminder of how easily the virus can return to places where it is believed to have been tamed.
Five days before the start of the current epidemic, Beijing authorities have just lowered the level of public emergency response from four levels from level 2 to level 3. It was raised back to level 2 on Tuesday night.
Similar warnings have surfaced many times in recent months, with governments rushing to control recurring outbreaks after seemingly misleading the initial number of outbreaks.
Second wave of infections
In China, the initial wave of infections was largely contained by the end of March, thanks in large part to extensive blocking measures that halted much of the country. As outbreaks have worsened in other countries, China has closed its borders to most foreigners, imposed strict screening at airports and quarantined all returning Chinese citizens. Despite preventive measures, accumulations of local infections still flared up in the northeastern part of the country in April and May, all related to import cases.
But the current epidemic in Beijing is the worst revival of the coronavirus to date, and authorities are still trying to find its source.
“This outbreak in Beijing probably didn’t start in late May or early June, but probably a month earlier,” Gao Fu, director of the China Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), told a meeting in Shanghai on Tuesday. .
“There must have been a lot of asymptomatic or mild cases in (the market) that’s why the virus has been found so much in the environment,” he said.
“According to the results of preliminary genomic and epidemiological studies, the virus is from Europe, but is different from the virus that is currently spreading in Europe. It is older than the virus that is currently spreading in Europe,” he wrote.
Zhang said the virus could have been hidden in imported frozen food or lurking in some dark and humid environment such as the Xinfadi market before being exposed to humans and causing infection.
In recent months, some Chinese health experts have warned of a potential second wave of infections, even as Chinese state media repeatedly touched on the government’s success in controlling the epidemic and compared it to the failures of Western governments.
“Most of … the Chinese are currently still susceptible to Covid-19 infection because of (the) lack of immunity,” Jung said. “We are facing a great challenge, it is not better than the foreign countries I think at the moment.”
Outbreak under control
The outbreak in Beijing will be the latest test of China’s coronavirus control strategy.
On Thursday, Wu Tsungo, chief epidemiologist at the Chinese CDC, set a triumphant tone, saying the outbreak in Beijing was already “under control.”
Wu said there was still a possibility of newly confirmed market-related cases in the coming days, but that was probably not due to a recent handover.
“Newly diagnosed cases reported every day do not equate to new infections and the epidemic is under control, does not mean that there will be zero new cases tomorrow,” Wu said.
“There will be cases reported tomorrow and after tomorrow. These reported cases are a process of detecting previous infections. Not new infections. New infections are only sporadic,” Wu said.
The chief epidemiologist said a new outbreak in Beijing was not unexpected, given the large number of new global cases.
“As long as there are risks of imported cases, imported infections and small clusters caused by imported infections can occur anywhere in China. From this point of view (the Beijing outbreak) is normal,” he said.
CNN’s Stephen Jiang contributed to the report.