New Beijing COVID-19 outbreak is 'reminder we are still in early stages of pandemic', expert warns

Jimmy Nsubuga
·3 min read
Residents line up to get tested at a coronavirus testing center set up outside a sports facility in Beijing, Tuesday, June 16, 2020. China reported several dozen more coronavirus infections Tuesday as it increased testing and lockdown measures in parts of the capital to control what appeared to be its largest outbreak in more than two months. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)
Residents line up to get tested at a coronavirus testing centre set up outside a sports facility in Beijing. (AP)

A new COVID-19 outbreak in Beijing should serve as a “reminder we are still in early stages of the pandemic”, a UK expert has warned.

China’s capital cancelled scores of flights, shut schools and blocked off some neighbourhoods as it ramped up efforts to contain an outbreak that has fanned fears of wider contagion.

Health officials reported 31 new coronavirus infections for Tuesday, taking cumulative cases since 11 June to 137 in the city’s worst resurgence in four months, with 356,000 people tested since Sunday.

Dr Tom Wingfield, senior clinical lecturer and honorary consultant physician at the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, has said the outbreak shows the UK is still in danger.

Dr Wingfield said: “The COVID-19 outbreak in Beijing serves as a reminder that, despite the UK having passed through the first wave of COVID-19, we still remain in the early stages of the pandemic.

“In the absence of herd immunity through either an effective vaccine or immunity following infection, the majority of the population – both in the UK and globally – remains at risk of COVID-19 if exposed to SARS-CoV-2 [the coronavirus].”

There have been concerns the UK is easing lockdown too soon after authorities again relaxed restrictions on Monday to allow a wider range of shops to open.

Labour leader Keir Starmer has previously questioned why restrictions were being eased when the alert level had not changed from level four.

Boris Johnson responded by saying the UK had been able to ease lockdown because the government’s five tests for doing so had been met.

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Shoppers outside Primark on Oxford Street, London, as non-essential shops in England open their doors to customers for the first time since coronavirus lockdown restrictions were imposed in March. (Photo by Yui Mok/PA Images via Getty Images)
Shoppers outside Primark on Oxford Street, London, as non-essential shops in England reopen. (Getty Images)

Dr Wingfield added: “It is inevitable that there will continue to be outbreaks, even in countries with very low numbers of COVID-19 cases per day such as China.

“Swift and coordinated responses to such outbreaks at regional, national, and international levels will be key to breaking transmission and preventing further spread of the virus.

“These responses are likely to include targeted testing and tracing and reinstatement of lockdown measures such as social distancing and travel restrictions.

“It is also likely that rather than being a blanket national policy, responses will instead be focused on specific hotspot areas affected by outbreaks.”

People wearing face masks wait for the delivery of goods they ordered online in a residential area in Xicheng district which is under lockdown after a new COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak near the closed Xinfadi Market in Beijing on June 17, 2020. - Beijing's airports cancelled two-thirds of all flights and schools in the Chinese capital were closed again on June 17 as authorities rushed to contain a new coronavirus outbreak linked to the Xinfadi wholesale food market. (Photo by NOEL CELIS / AFP) (Photo by NOEL CELIS/AFP via Getty Images)
People wearing face masks near the closed Xinfadi Market in Beijing. (Getty)

The Xinfadi market in Beijing to which the new outbreak has been traced was the capital’s largest trading centre for farm produce, with high levels of product traffic and clusters of people, said Pang Xinghuo, a senior disease control official.

Although roads and highways in Beijing were still open and companies and factories had not been told to halt work, authorities stepped up movement control measures on Wednesday.

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