China panic: Chinese city shuts down supermarkets after another coronavirus outbreak

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On Friday, a dairy salesperson working at a Hema supermarket – a chain owned by Alibaba – in the southern Chinese city of Shenzhen tested positive for COVID-19. Following their diagnosis, testing efforts led to the discovery of two further asymptomatic cases on Saturday.

All three people were employed at the Shuibei Hema supermarket in Luohu district.

Authorities proceeded to test 83,000 local residents after the two new cases were confirmed on Saturday.

People across the province were tested for the pathogen and 21 Hema supermarkets in Shenzhen were shuttered for testing and disinfection.

All additional tests on people and product samples have returned negative, the Guangdong provincial government said on Sunday.

As of 6pm Sunday, 83,413 nucleic samples had been compiled.

Out of those samples, 5,553 belonged to employees at 21 Hema supermarkets and two storage sites, as well as extensive environmental and product samples, the local health commission said on Sunday.

So far, all the human and product sample tests returned negative.

The staff members were taken to No 3 People’s Hospital and are quarantined there.

The patients’ homes have been disinfected and neighbours put under watch, the heath commission said.

On Saturday, Hema released a public statement explaining that it had closed 21 outlets in order to sanitise them and test employees.

Shenzhen authorities made available free nucleic testing to resident living near the affected supermarket and the tests results are expected to be returned within three days.

People who had purchased goods from the Luohu Hema branch or visited the shop since August 1 are also given a free nucleic test.

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Test and tracking efforts are underway in other wet markets, supermarkets and food storage sites in Guangdong, the provincial government said.

Imported frozen food goods must now undergo compulsory sample tests.

On Sunday night, Chinese infectious disease expert Zhong Nanshan said Guangdong’s efforts to contain the outbreak had been swift.

He added that he was confident the virus would not spread extensively.

Speaking to provincial government-backed media outlet, he said: “For local cases, we need to figure out three questions: where the origins are, are the cases imported or local; who had contact, which requires tracking; and how big the scale is, which requires extensive screening in certain areas.”

He said the outbreak was linked to the Hema shops, but it was unclear whether it was transmitted from person to person or through contact with contaminated goods.

He said: “Based on the Beijing Xinfadi market cases, it might be more closely related to contaminated food products.

“We might need to be vigilant about that.”

On Thursday, the Shenzhen authorities announced the pathogen was found on the surface of frozen chicken wings that originated in Brazil.

It was not clear which outlet had the items on display.

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