The Beijing Market, a case study for a pollution recovery

The recovery in Covid-19 pollutants has been considered “extremely serious” by the Beijing authorities. This is because it originates from Asia’s largest agricultural market and affects the Chinese capital, where the collective immunity rate remains very low.

This is the story of two markets in China. One in Wuhan, considered as an episode of the global pandemic Covid-19, and the other in Beijing, which may be the source of the dreaded second wave of the epidemic. More than a hundred new cases of pollution related to this market have been noted in a week in the Chinese capital, city hall announced Tuesday, June 16. She called the recovery in Covid-19 infections “extremely severe”.

The parallel with the market in Wuhan is tempting. In both cases, it is “very busy places, where social distances are difficult to apply, and where there is a certain humidity to which the use of cooling systems for storing food. The perfect blend of an environment conducive to the survival of coronavirus and of circumstances that facilitate dissemination “, summarizes Serge Morand, specialist on the transmission of pathogens at CNRS, who works at the Center for International Cooperation in Agronomic Research for Development, contacted by France 24.

A disproportionate market is measured by coronavirus

But the huge size of Xinfadi’s market, located in southern Beijing, makes any comparison difficult. It covers 112 hectares, distributed to 2,000 traders under the supervision of 1,200 permanent employees at the site. Every day, about 1,200 tonnes of fish, 18,000 tonnes of vegetables and 20,000 tonnes of fruit are sold there, making it the agricultural market the most important of the Asian continent.

This is one of the reasons why the Beijing authorities consider this source of pollution as very worrying. The corona virus could hardly find a worse place to reappear in China. “This market supplies at least 70% of all vegetables used by companies in the capital, which means health officials fear the virus has already had time to spread in the city,” said William Keevil, professor of environmental health at the University of Southampton, contacted by France 24 In addition, “let’s not forget that if there are about a hundred confirmed cases, we must add asymptomatic people who are contagious and we could get the coronavirus,” adds Serge Morand.

This recovery in contamination is also a “particularly serious” development in the eyes of the authorities as it occurs in Beijing and not just because of population density. “The authorities were surprised as the Chinese capital was one of the last Chinese cities to maintain strict measures to contain the spread, demonstrating the virus’s ability to slip through China’s safety net,” notes Serge Morand.

Beijing protected but poor immune system

The capital is also one of the Chinese cities where measures to contain the spread have been applied most strictly. Beijing was also isolated “very quickly from the original pollutants,” recalls Julian Tang, a respiratory disease specialist at the University of Leicester, contacted by France 24. A force at the height of the pandemic that could now turn against its residents because “the degree of collective immunity to the disease is very low compared to other places in the country that are more susceptible to the virus, which means that the potential for spread is much greater, “notes the British expert.

Therefore, the importance of containment measures taken in about thirty residential areas in the city and the decision to close the sports and cultural sites. The City Hall also urged residents Tuesday, June 16, not to leave the city. But the most urgent thing “is to know if the authorities will be able to quickly trace the source of the pollution, because they will be able to track exactly everyone who has been exposed to it,” says Serge Morand.

However, Beijing is giving an advantage over Wuhan in this race against the clock. “The authorities know what they are dealing with and they can also use the facilities if needed[as[commedes[som[commedeshospital from the ground in less than a week, Editor’s Note]that was built in 2003 to deal with the SARS epidemic, said Julian Tang, who is hopeful that Beijing will be able to control this sudden recovery in contamination.

Beijing and beyond

For him, the main risk comes rather from carriers of the virus, asymptomatic or with only mild symptoms, who have been able to leave the city. “She’s the big unknown right now,” he notes. We do not know if there are any, how many there are and especially where they are going. “If they go to other big cities where action will be taken quickly to deal with this pollution recovery, the situation can be controlled, but if they go to rural areas that are much less well-monitored, the epidemic may begin again,” said the University of Leicester researcher.

The risk of exporting corona virus outside Beijing remains less significant than when it appeared in Wuhan … for a simple matter of time. “It was the New Year’s season and it’s one of the periods when the Chinese are moving the most, which has contributed to the spread of the virus,” recalls Julian Tang. Nothing like this time, which can limit the risk of seeing a second wave sweep across the country.

The fact remains, whether there is or not, that the pollution recovery “is something that will inevitably recur around the world for the next six months,” notes Julian Tang. The Xinfadi market represents, for him, a model of the focus of Covid-19 that comes when deconstruction is taking place all over the world. “They will appear especially in large cities, which experience a low degree of collective immunity, in populated places such as markets or public transport, where the population will gradually pay less attention to the recommendations on social distance,” he predicts. The only unknown to him is where exactly the corona virus will meet next time.