China has recently seen a new cluster of infections in Xinfadi market, leading to fresh fears of a resurgence of the virus in the country. It has swiftly implemented mass testing and some lockdown measures in an attempt to curb the virus’ spread.
The country has ceased imports from European salmon suppliers over fears of a link to Xinfadi market.
This is despite experts saying that the fish itself is unlikely to carry COVID-19.
Chinese state newspapers have reported that the virus has been identified on surfaces preparing salmon in Xinfadi market.
The reports have led to major Beijing supermarkets to remove salmon from their shelves.
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Genetic traces of the virus from Xinfadi market have suggested that the resurgent outbreak may have come from Europe.
Keith Neal said any link to salmon was probably the result of cross-contamination.
The emeritus professor of the epidemiology of infectious diseases at Britain’s University of Nottingham said: “Markets can be crowded places, so, like in Wuhan, [they] help fuel the spread.”
It was previously reported in May that the strain of coronavirus seen in Europe was a mutated version from the original strain in China.
But Marion Koopmans, head of the viroscience department at the Erasmus University Medical Centre in Rotterdam, said it was difficult to know whether the specific genetic sequence detected in cases from the Beijing market could indeed be linked to Europe because of limited data.
Koopmans said: “There’s mention of a European sequence, but it’s hard to say that with certainty unless there’s a lot of other data on virus diversity in China.
“It’s hard for me to understand what they mean by a European strain.
“What we have seen with the global spread of the virus is that it is diversifying because it gets introduced to different areas and continues to circulate, so you see a signature that looks like this is now a ‘European virus’, but that same signature may also be circulating in Asia – we don’t know.”
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Mike Ryan, head of the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) emergency programme, has said that he “fully expects” China to publish the genetic sequencing of the virus when it is able to.
Reuters quoted him as saying on Monday: “The finding that this may represent a strain more common in transmission in Europe is important and it may reflect human-to-human transmission more than any other hypotheses.”
He also said the claim that the new infections in Beijing may have been caused by importing or packaging of salmon was just a “hypothesis” at the time.
China has previously been criticised for it’s reported lack of transparency surrounding the virus and it’s reporting of the severity of the outbreak.
It is the latest measure undertaken by China in an attempt to curb a potential second wave of coronavirus.
After the last weekend saw the Xinfadi cluster infect over 100 people, Beijing sent community workers to the market to mass test thousands for the virus.
Beijing city spokesman Xu Hejian warned at a press conference on Tuesday: “The epidemic situation in the capital is extremely severe.
“Right now we have to take strict measures to stop the spread of COVID-19.”