Coronavirus News Asia

Claims of a mutating virus spook Beijing

Controversy has become just as virulent as the Covid-19 outbreak in Beijing amid fears of a second wave in China.

With close to 140 cases now reported from the Chinese capital, there are mounting concerns that the world’s second-largest economy is facing a mutating microscopic enemy.

Speculation has increased that a new version of the SARS-CoV-2 virus has emerged. Officials have pointed out that the “genome” strands closely match European or Russian strains.

“[It] resembles the virus strains in Europe the most, which, however, doesn’t mean that it came from Europe,” Wu Zunyou, the chief epidemiologist with the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, told state broadcaster CCTV.

“We came up [with] several possibilities, and the most likely one is that the carrier comes from outside China or other parts of China and brought it here,” Wu said.

Clinical tests have shown that the “sequencing” is different from the pathogen that surfaced in Wuhan last year, which triggered the global pandemic.

“The coronavirus found in Beijing is extremely contagious, likely more contagious than that found in Wuhan,” Yang Zhanqiu, the deputy director of the pathogen biology department at Wuhan University, told China’s state-run media.

But the science is still not conclusive after the outbreak was traced back to Beijing’s Xinfadi market. Stretching over one square kilometer, or half-a-mile, it is the largest of its kind in Asia.

Media reports have suggested that the virus was found on chopping boards used to cut up imported salmon, sparking the “mutation” claims.

Earlier this week, Shi Guoqing, the deputy director of Beijing’s Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, confirmed there was “no evidence” that salmon was the host or intermediate host. 

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