Chinese state media says ‘unlikely’ new COVID outbreak was caused by animals

People who visited or live around the Beijing Xinfadi food market were tested for the coronavirus after a new outbreak emerged. (AP Photo/Andy Wong)

A researcher has warned against concluding that the coronavirus resurgence in Beijing came from food, Chinese media has reported.

The Communist Party of China’s newspaper the Global Times reports that the chance of the new COVID-19 outbreak in the capital coming from wildlife is “very small”.

The coronavirus, which has killed more than 450,000 people around the world, according to Johns Hopkins University, was first identified in Wuhan. The initial cluster of cases was traced back to a seafood market there.

More than 180 new cases have been officially reported in Beijing within the last week, many of which were linked to the large Xinfadi wholesale food market, which was shut for disinfection.

The virus was found in a sample taken from a chopping board at the market, leading to the fish being pulled from shelves in a number of Chinese cities.

However, the Global Times reported that Liu Jun, a researcher from the National Institute for Viral Disease Control and Prevention, said while seafood could have been contaminated, it is possible an infected person visited the market and spread the virus.

The entrance to to the Xinfadi wholesale market was cordoned off. (Photo by Zoya RusinovaTASS via Getty Images)
The entrance to to the Xinfadi wholesale market was cordoned off. (Photo by Zoya RusinovaTASS via Getty Images)

“There are many possibilities, but the chance of the virus coming from wildlife [in Beijing] is very small,” he said.

Liu said the cold and damp wet market environment provides ideal conditions for the virus to survive and spread.

Droplets from an infected person’s cough can fall to the ground and contaminate places, Liu said.

The outlet added that Liu said “we cannot jump to the conclusion that the wet market was the origin of the virus just because an outbreak took place there”.

It also reported he said that the recent outbreak “gives us the opportunity to re-examine our previous speculation that the virus originated from wildlife”.

Scientists consider the Wuhan wet market to have either been the source or amplifier of coronavirus.

Residential communities around Xinfadi and another market, where three people tested positive, were put into lockdown – an area of about 90,000 people.

A mass testing campaign was introduced to stem the outbreak, which has seen a drop in cases and no new deaths.

Many anti-coronavirus controls had been relaxed in China.

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