China releases genome of virus that caused Beijing outbreak, saying it could be linked to Europe
Blue Sky Rescue team volunteers disinfect the Nangong Comprehensive Market in Beijing - Carlos Garcia Rawlins / Reuters
China has released the genetic sequence of the coronavirus, which is believed to have caused Beijing's new outbreak. It could be associated with tribes that originated in Europe.
Data released by government researchers indicate that the virus is an older version than the one currently infecting Europe. This confirms the idea that it lurked for a while - possibly as early as May - before it broke out in a Beijing food wholesale market last week.
Many traces of the virus have been found in the Xinfadi market, "indicating that it has been around for some time," said Zhang Yong, deputy director of the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, adding, "If it would only have been on the market. The city may not have found so many positive samples for a short time. "
However, external experts have suppressed China's claims.
Genetic virus data that can be used to compare the number of mutations is not enough "to be sure of the geographical origin of the line. It could essentially be from anywhere," wrote Francois Balloux, director of the UCL Genetics Institute, online.
At best, he said, "proper analysis can provide some 'reasonable guess' for a plausible geographic source."
China is experiencing the worst coronavirus resurgence since February, and more cases are being discovered in Beijing every day. The capital reported 25 new cases on Friday, increasing the total to 183 last week and ended an almost two-month series of zero cases.
The flare-up highlights the challenges that governments face in balancing unlocking and corona virus containment, even in a country that has implemented stringent containment measures, including installing cameras and sensors on the doors of the People to monitor their movements.
The authorities are still tracking the origin of the outbreak, which was surprising. Weeks earlier, China had almost no local broadcasts, and all new diseases came from citizens returning from abroad.
Chinese officials originally said foreign fish were to blame after finding traces of coronavirus on a cutting board used by a supplier of imported salmon.
Politically, this has been a comfortable line as Beijing has tried to defend itself against global calls to investigate the cover-up of the pandemic at an early stage by claiming that "foreign forces" like the US military had brought the virus to China .
While the government later resigned to claim that imported salmon was responsible for the recent outbreak, the damage has already been done. Pieces of salmon had been pulled from the food shelves, and many Chinese who were concerned about eating the fish stopped visiting restaurants that served salmon dishes.
The authorities found that the seafood and meat areas of the Xinfadi market were seriously contaminated by the virus and have not yet ruled out the possibility that it will remain on food packaging.
"The virus may have stayed on imported frozen products and will not mutate due to the cold environment throughout the overseas storage and transportation process to China," said Zhang.
Low temperatures and high humidity could have contributed to the spread in the wholesale market, which is heavily used by buyers, sellers and suppliers.
Beijing is still partially closed and residents from areas with a high number of infections are not allowed to leave the city. A number of outbound travel connections were canceled, while entire residential buildings were sealed as the authorities ran to contain the outbreak.
Local officials have also made house visits and visits to people to check their travel and contact history. Aggressive efforts have been made to bring together all those who may have been subjected to mass testing and quarantine.
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