Five Questions About the Origins of the Latest Virus Outbreak in Beijing

A Chinese health worker carries out a nucleic acid test on a journalist covering events around the National People's Congress in Beijing, China on May 28, 2020. (Kevin Frayer/Getty Images)
BY YUAN BIN

Commentary

After more than 50 days of no new cases, Beijing has announced new confirmed cases of CCP virus (novel coronavirus) infection.

On June 11, the first local case was reported by the Beijing city government. To date, there have been more than 200 cases confirmed by authorities.

Scanning numerous information sources, I found five questions around this issue.

1. Did the virus come from imported salmon?

After the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus again hit Beijing, salmon became the authorities’ first suspect.

Following the report of the new case on June 11, authorities removed all salmon products from the market overnight and launched a major food safety inspection.

On the evening of June 12, Beijing’s municipal Party secretary Cai Qi and mayor Chen Jining held an emergency meeting on the outbreak. They claimed that the CCP virus was found in imported seafood, and the virus strain was different from the domestic strain. Import of seafood, beef, and lamb were halted immediately.

Salmon obviously became the scapegoat of the outbreak.

According to a report by state-owned Global Times on June 13, the CCP virus was detected on a chopping board used by a seller of imported salmon at the Xinfadi food market. The seller’s salmon was from the Fengtai district’s Jingshen seafood market, according to Zhang Yuxi, head of the Xinfadi market.

As a result, salmon naturally became the biggest “suspect” and “culprit.”

However, several Chinese virologists told Caixin.com that there is no scientific evidence to support that salmon can be infected with the novel coronavirus and spread the virus. The possibility of transmitting the virus through food contamination is also very slim.

More importantly, the nine personnel directly related to the stalls that cut imported salmon all tested negative in nucleic acid tests; the 186 personnel working at seafood sections of the Jingshen seafood market also all tested negative; and the 283 on-site samples collected from Jingshen seafood market all tested negative.

2. Did the virus come from the West?

Wu Zunyou, the newly appointed chief epidemiologist of the Chinese CDC, said the laboratory test results showed that the virus strain was closer to the strain from Europe. However, it could possibly come from Europe or the Americas, he said.

Guan Yi, Director of the State Key Laboratory for Emerging Infectious Diseases, University of Hong Kong told China Newsweek, “There have been no new cases in Beijing for more than fifty days. This time it must be imported.”

Guan also claimed, “The possibility of spreading through the temperature-controlled supply chain is the greatest. Many slaughterhouses in Europe and the United States have had the COVID-19 outbreak. If it is spread through the temperature-controlled supply chain, it is nothing new.”

A CCP official claimed on a Chinese social platform: “We ignored the prevention and testing of imported seafood and meat. Since the outbreak, we have strictly controlled inbound flights and travelers to strictly prevent imported cases, and have adopted extremely strict isolation and prevention measures for inbound people. However, there’s still a shortcoming. We have not tested the imported seafood, meat, and fruits. This provides the virus an opportunity to sneak in through salmon.”

The CCP’s troll army soon started to pick fights online and blamed the virus source of the Beijing outbreak on Europe and the United States.

In fact, the logic to see through this is simple. If the virus really spread to China through imported foods such as seafood, meat, and so on, how come it did not happen to other countries which also import from the same regions?

The global salmon farming output is roughly 2.2 million tons per year. The most important markets are Europe (about 1 million tons) and the United States (about 400,000 tons). China imports less than 100,000 tons a year, and its annual consumption is less than 5 percent of global output. Why is it that only salmon imported into China was found to contain the CCP virus? Does the virus have a preference for China?

3. Did the virus come from Hubei?

After Zhang Yuelin, general manager of Xinfadi Market, was dismissed, a worker at the market disclosed on social media that Zhang and the leadership were falsely positive about “incentivizing the procurement of produce from Hubei to save Hubei” and “neglecting the supervision of temperature-controlled transportation and staff.”

Hubei Province was a hotspot for China’s epidemic. Wuhan, the city where the virus first broke out, is the capital of Hubei.

Since the Xinfadi market has been actively buying goods from Hubei, is it possible that some virus-infected products from Hubei have brought the virus into Beijing? Or the driver who went to Hubei to transport the goods, or the freezer in the truck was affected with the virus, and then brought it into Beijing? I believe this is likely.

4. Could the virus have come from delegates to the Two Sessions?

The Two Sessions refers to the regime’s annual political meetings, where the rubber-stamp legislature and its advisory body enact policies and agendas. Normally held in March, the 2020 meeting was delayed until May 21 due to the CCP virus pandemic.

Some Chinese netizens speculated that the outbreak in Beijing was caused by delegates from other provinces who may have brought the virus to Beijing while attending the Two Sessions. Cases were already discovered before the end of the Two Sessions. To save face for Chinese leader Xi Jinping (since he’s the one who insisted on holding the Two Sessions), the outbreak was concealed for more than ten days. Fearing that Beijing will become the second Wuhan, the regime was forced to disclose the outbreak.

When did this wave of the Beijing outbreak begin? In an exclusive interview with state broadcaster CCTV News on the evening of June 15, Wu Zunyou said that it is still not very certain, but, “From the cases found so far, based on the time the case was found and transmitted, the earliest should be around the end of May.” If so, according to the incubation period of the virus of at least two weeks, it is very possible that this new wave outbreak would have appeared before the Two Sessions concluded at the end of May.

Since the epidemic began, Chinese official experts have admitted that there are a large number of asymptomatic infected people in China. One expert has said: “The virus stays in the body for more than three weeks, and it is possible to transmit the virus.” Thus, even rigorous nucleic acid testing may not fully detect all cases. Of course, the experts would not trace the outbreak back to the delegates. It would be considered a challenge to the Party’s political stability.

5. Why is all the attention on the salmon cutting board sample?

On the morning of June 13, during a press briefing about the Beijing outbreak, officials stated that on June 12, a total of 5,424 swab samples were collected from seafood, meat, and the external environment of farmer’s wholesale markets and supermarkets in Beijing. 40 environmental samples from the Xinfadi market tested positive.

What is puzzling is that, among the 40 positive samples collected from the environment, why was the salmon chopping board sample the only one that was released? Could there be any unspeakable secrets hidden in the 39 other samples? Or, was publicizing the salmon chopping board sample intended to mislead the public into thinking the source of the outbreak was from outside China?

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