One western reporter revealed how he received a phone call ordering him to get tested after he attended the 'sprawling' Xinfadi wholesale market, where the new outbreak started. Pictured: An official checks the smartphone health app data of people at a COVID-19 testing site in Beijing on Wednesday

 

Beijing uses phone data to round up 350,000 people for coronavirus testing, and installs facial recognition checkpoints at apartment complexes as 21MILLION are put under lockdown

  • A Western reporter told how his phone rang after he attended the ‘sprawling’ Xinfadi wholesale market
  • The market is where the new outbreak, of which there have been 158 confirmed cases so far, started
  • Reporter Mark Schiefelbein was told to report to a nearby sports stadium to be tested for coronavirus
  • A city official said 355,000 people had been identified for testing using ‘big data’ but did not say how
  • Residents have also been urged not to travel outside Beijing and thousands of flights have been cancelled

By HARRY HOWARD FOR MAILONLINE and AP

PUBLISHED: 13:26 AEST, 18 June 2020 | UPDATED: 03:03 AEST, 19 June 2020


Beijing is using phone data to round up more than 350,000 people for coronavirus testing as the country battles a second wave of coronavirus.

One western reporter revealed how he received a phone call ordering him to get tested after he attended the ‘sprawling’ Xinfadi wholesale market, where the new outbreak started.

A city official explained that 355,000 people had been identified for testing using 'big data'. It also emerged that at least 21million have had lockdown rules reimposed on them in China as part of fightback measures

A city official explained that 355,000 people had been identified for testing using ‘big data’.

It also emerged that at least 21million have had lockdown rules reimposed on them in China as part of fightback measures.

Checkpoints have been reimposed on all residential complexes in the city after its emergency response level was raised and residents are required to go through facial recognition cameras or show digital passes if they wish to enter or leave compounds.

Another 21 cases of the virus were reported in the past 24 hours in Beijing, the National Health Commission said, taking the total number of new infections to 158. The figure was down from 31 on Wednesday.

The decline in new cases prompted one of the country’s leading epidemiologists to say at a briefing on Thursday that the city’s outbreak is ‘under control’.

But crowds of people waiting to be tested have become a common sight in Beijing in recent days. Footage showed hordes of people packed into a corridor at a hospital in Shaanxi, west of Beijing, as they waited to be tested.

Beijing is using phone data to round up more than 350,000 people for coronavirus testing as the country battles a second wave of coronavirus. People pack into a corridor in a hospital west of Beijing as they wait to be tested +13

As fears rise over the new wave, thousands of people have rushed to get tested +13

Beijing is using phone data to round up more than 350,000 people for coronavirus testing as the country battles a second wave of coronavirus. As fears rise over the new wave, thousands of people have rushed to get tested.

One western reporter revealed how he received a phone call ordering him to get tested after he attended the ‘sprawling’ Xinfadi wholesale market, where the new outbreak started. Pictured: An official checks the smartphone health app data of people at a COVID-19 testing site in Beijing on Wednesday +13
One western reporter revealed how he received a phone call ordering him to get tested after he attended the ‘sprawling’ Xinfadi wholesale market, where the new outbreak started. Pictured: An official checks the smartphone health app data of people at a COVID-19 testing site in Beijing on Wednesday

Another 21 cases of the virus were reported in the past 24 hours in Beijing, the National Health Commission said, taking the total number of new infections to 158. The figure was down from 31 on Wednesday

China has found the trading sections for meat and seafood in Beijing’s wholesale food market to be severely contaminated with the new coronavirus and suspects the area’s low temperature and high humidity may have been contributing factors, officials said on Thursday.

Among the patients who work at the Xinfadi market, most serve at seafood and aquatic product stalls, followed by the beef and mutton section, and patients from the seafood market showed symptoms earlier than others, Wu Zunyou, chief epidemiologist at the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, said at a daily briefing on Thursday.

Low temperatures favorable to viral survival as well as high humidity might be possible explanations for why seafood markets could be a source of outbreaks based on a preliminary assessment, Wu said, cautioning that further investigation was necessary.

China has halted imports from European salmon suppliers this week amid fears they may be linked to the recent outbreak in Beijing.

Writing for the Associated Press, Mark Schiefelbein told how he was tracked via his phone after he attended the Xinfadi market in Bejing.

He explained that he was called by an official who ‘informed me that I should shortly report to the gates of a nearby sports stadium to be bused to a coronavirus testing site.’

He added that he was told that ‘someone with my cellphone number had been in the vicinity of the market. I may have been tracked through my cellphone.’

‘A Beijing city official said Wednesday that 355,000 people have been identified for testing via big data, but he did not specify how,’ he wrote.

It comes as news also emerged that Beijing has imposed lockdown rules on its 21million residents, according to the Times.

Residents have been urged not to travel outside the capital after the outbreak spread to four other Chinese provinces.

Thousands of flights have also been cancelled at Beijing’s airports and the city’s emergency response level has been raised to its second highest.

The first case of the new outbreak was identified last week and linked to the Xinfadi food market.

Close contacts were being traced to locate all possible cases as quickly as possible amid strengthened testing and other prevention and control measures, Hu Hejian said Thursday.

Anyone who has been near the market since May 30, along with their close contacts, will be quarantined at home for 14 days and tested at least twice, city government official Zhang Ge said.

The city has closed its borders to all confirmed cases, suspected cases, patients with fever and close contacts from abroad and other provinces, Zhang said.

China already has barred most foreigners from entering the country and even foreign diplomats arriving from abroad must under two weeks of isolation at home, he said.

All indoor public venues, including club houses and party rooms in apartment complexes, will remain closed, Zhang said.

Offices, restaurants and hotels in high risk area will be shut down, he said. Flights at the city’s two airports have already been cut by half.

The national total of new cases included four brought by Chinese travellers from outside the country and three in the city of Tianjin and Hebei province, both of which border Beijing.

Wu Zunyou, chief epidemiologist from Beijing Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, said at a press briefing today Beijing’s outbreak ‘is already under control’.

However, Mr Wu added that new cases would still occur tomorrow and the day after.

A city official explained that 355,000 people had been identified for testing using ‘big data’. It also emerged that at least 21million have had lockdown rules reimposed on them in China as part of fightback measures +13
A city official explained that 355,000 people had been identified for testing using ‘big data’. It also emerged that at least 21million have had lockdown rules reimposed on them in China as part of fightback measures

It also emerged that at least 21million have had lockdown rules reimposed on them in China as part of fightback measures +13

Checkpoints have been reimposed on all residential complexes in the city after its emergency response level was raised and residents are required to go through facial recognition cameras or show digital passes if they wish to enter or leave compounds +13
Checkpoints have been reimposed on all residential complexes in the city after its emergency response level was raised and residents are required to go through facial recognition cameras or show digital passes if they wish to enter or leave compounds

Wu explained that Beijing officials discovered the cluster, tracked down the source and imposed measures to block the spread ‘timely’. He said the city had locked down the outbreak in the smallest area possible.

However, footage showed large crowds gathering in Xijing Hospital, Xi’an, Shaanxi, for nucleic acid tests in response to a fresh outbreak the fresh outbreak.

They were seen packed into narrow corridors as officials spoke to them through a megaphone.

Crowds of masked people waiting for tests have become a common sight in recent days across Beijing, which has tested more than 350,000 people, with many more expected.

‘It’s very difficult right now,’ said musician Chen Weiwen, 31, whose plans to visit the southwestern city of Chengdu faced a delay because of the wait for a test.

Another 21 cases of the virus were reported in the past 24 hours in Beijing, the National Health Commission said, taking the total number of new infections to 158. The figure was down from 31 on Wednesday +13
Another 21 cases of the virus were reported in the past 24 hours in Beijing, the National Health Commission said, taking the total number of new infections to 158. The figure was down from 31 on Wednesday

The decline in new cases prompted one of the country’s leading epidemiologists to say at a briefing on Thursday that the city’s outbreak is ‘under control’ +13
The decline in new cases prompted one of the country’s leading epidemiologists to say at a briefing on Thursday that the city’s outbreak is ‘under control’

The Xinfadi wholesale market in Bejing which has been highlighted as the epicentre of the new outbreak

Beijing slaps coronavirus checkpoints on all residential complexes

Beijing is resuming coronavirus checkpoints on all residential complexes after the city raised its emergency response, Zhang Ge, Beijing’s top coronavirus official, has told reporters today.

Citizens need to register their information and have their temperatures taken before entering or leaving their compounds, according to the authority.

These blockades are guarded 24/7 by officers who will check people’s IDs and scan people’s health codes before allowing anyone to pass through.

Residents are required to go through facial recognition cameras or show digital passes if they wish to enter or leave the compound.

Complexes deemed as ‘medium’ or ‘high risk’ will be sealed off ‘if necessary’, officials say.

Non-residents and their vehicles are banned from entering these areas.

‘I don’t mind waiting, but after the test I need to leave in 7 days and there may not be a flight I can get then.’

Residents now require a negative result on a nucleic acid test to travel, officials say, as well as to visit some attractions or return to work in industries that involve food handling.

That is in addition to mandatory tests for those with direct links to the market and their close contacts, as well as people in surrounding neighbourhoods and frontline health workers.

That could be a large number, as officials say about 200,000 people from all over Beijing have visited Xinfadi since May 30.

‘Testing efficiency is high,’ Pan Xuhong, deputy director of the Beijing Municipal Public Security Bureau, said on Thursday.

‘Those who need to leave Beijing can safely do so once tested negative in a nucleic acid test.’

Staff at a restaurant in the southern Fengtai district told Reuters that health workers had tested every employee.

At the same time, state media warned that supplies in the city of 21 million could be strained, and Reuters checks showed waiting times for voluntary appointments stretched to weeks or months in some places.

China, a top producer of nucleic acid tests, could turn out up to 5 million a day, authorities said last month. Beijing has expanded daily testing capacity to 90,000, but the new programme puts a strain on resources.

‘Some citizens spontaneously go to medical institutions or fever clinics for (tests) and crowding occurs,’ the state-run Beijing Daily newspaper said.

That in turn heightened infection risks and pressure on the supply of materials and testing capacity, it added.

A Reuters check showed many testing facilities inundated by those seeking voluntary tests, with bookings filled as soon they opened on the city’s official app.

Just one of 11 test sites telephoned by Reuters answered. The First Medical Center of the People’s Liberation Army Hospital said its next available slot was a month away.

The Beijing effort is China’s latest mass testing exercise, though it is more focused than a similar programme in Wuhan, the central city where the virus first surfaced last year, that had tested more than 6 million people in less than 10 days.

The Xinfadi wholesale market in Bejing which has been highlighted as the epicentre of the new outbreak

It comes as news also emerged that Beijing has imposed lockdown rules on its 21million residents +13

Residents now require a negative result on a nucleic acid test to travel, officials say, as well as to visit some attractions or return to work in industries that involve food handling +13

Residents now require a negative result on a nucleic acid test to travel, officials say, as well as to visit some attractions or return to work in industries that involve food handling

In Beijing, people marshalled for mandatory tests in converted parks and sports fields said test times were designated for them in door-to-door checks forming part of a contact tracing campaign.

Those without tickets distributed by organisers would be turned away, one organiser told Reuters.

‘We are in war-time mode again’: Official says Beijing is at the ‘critical moment’ in containing COVID-19
Xu Hejian, spokesman of the city government, said today that Beijing is at the ‘critical moment’ in containing the coronavirus outbreak.

‘We are in the war-time mode again,’ Xu added.

The officials said that the capital city had entered ‘an unusual time’ as the escalating coronavirus outbreak must be handled ‘with unusual strategies’.

No new deaths have been reported so far, leaving the total number of fatalities at 4,634 amid 83,293 cases recorded since the virus was first detected in the central city of Wuhan late last year.

The Xinfadi market supplies more than 70 percent of the Beijing’s meat and vegetables.

The number of visitors to the market made the outbreak ‘hard to control’, Pang Xinghuo, deputy director of the Beijing Center for Disease Control and Prevention, told reporters Wednesday.

Eleven markets have been shuttered, thousands of food and beverage businesses disinfected, and schools closed again in the city.

Hundreds of thousands of people have been tested for the virus so far but a shortage of expensive machines has led to delays in processing swabs.

China also reported four imported cases on Thursday as Chinese nationals returned from abroad.

Until the Beijing cluster emerged last week, imported cases had accounted for the majority of infections in the country for several months.

Meanwhile, a memoir by former U.S. National Security Advisor John Bolton accused President Donald Trump of pleading with Chinese President Xi Jinping to boost U.S. food purchases, describing it in terms of his own election.

Mr Trump allegedly stressed the importance of farmers and ‘increased Chinese purchases of soybeans and wheat in the electoral outcome.’

Residents have been urged not to travel outside the capital after the outbreak spread to four other Chinese provinces +13

Mr Bolton also claimed that Trump thought it was the ‘right thing’ that China has built ‘concentration camps’ where members of the country’s population of Uighur Muslims were being imprisoned.

The publication of the former officials’ bombshell book is being blocked by the Justice Department, who are arguing that Bolton was in breach of the nondisclosure agreements he signed.

U.S. President Donald Trump ‘sought China’s help in re-election’

President Donald Trump sought the help of Chinese President Xi Jinping to win the 2020 election, according to a book by ex-National Security Adviser John Bolton.

Mr Bolton claimed that Trump wanted China to buy produce from US farmers.

Mr Trump allegedly stressed the importance of farmers and ‘increased Chinese purchases of soybeans and wheat in the electoral outcome.’

Mr Bolton also claimed Mr Trump was ‘stunningly uninformed on how to run the White House’.

But the U.S. Justice Department is trying to block the publication of the book.

They argue that Bolton was in breach of the nondisclosure agreements he signed.

Meanwhile, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo urged China to reveal all it knows about the coronavirus outbreak that is believed to have originated in the country.

Pompeo with the ruling Chinese Communist Party’s top diplomat, Yang Jiechi, in Hawaii on Wednesday.

Pompeo ‘stressed the need for full transparency and information sharing to combat the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and prevent future outbreaks,’ the State Department said in a statement.

Pompeo has joined President Trump in criticizing China’s response to the outbreak, including giving credence to a theory that the virus may have emerged from a Chinese laboratory in Wuhan.

The World Health Organization last month bowed to calls from most of its member states to investigate how it managed the response to the virus, but the evaluation would stop short of looking into the origins of the virus. China maintains that controlling the virus’s spread should be given priority.

China is also being called on to relieve the virus’ financial consequences in Africa.

South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa addressed Chinese leader Xi Jinping during an online China-Africa summit. He reminded China that African nations are seeking significant debt relief as they battle the pandemic.

African nations have called for a two-year suspension of debt payments and other relief that would allow them to focus resources on the health crisis. But China, Africa´s biggest creditor, has not indicated it will offer a sweeping solution and experts say it will focus instead on bilateral arrangements with countries.

Ramaphosa urged China to offer more relief or propose alternatives, warning that ‘the worst is still to come’ for Africa in the pandemic.

Xi in his speech said he hopes the international community, ‘especially developed countries and multilateral financial institutions, will act more forcefully on debt relief and suspension for Africa.’

 

Close contacts were being traced to locate all possible cases as quickly as possible amid strengthened testing and other prevention and control measures, Hu Hejian said Thursday