“The preliminary results of genetic sequencing of the research show that this virus from Europe . . . but it is older than the virus currently in circulation in Europe,” said Zhang Yong, deputy director within the China Centre of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in a government notice on Friday.
Gao Fu, director of the CDC, told the local media, the virus may have started to spread in Beijing from the beginning of the month of May.
The latest findings add weight to the idea that the virus behind the latest epidemic has been put in circulation in the Chinese capital before the first cases were identified last week.
On Thursday, Beijing has reported 24 new confirmed infections in an epidemic that began in the city Xinfadi market power. The rate of spread seems to have slowed down since the last weekend, while nearly 40 infections have been observed each day, leading authorities to lock down districts of the city, and impose travel restrictions.
The information will also highlight the challenge of resisting a second wave of Covid-19, even for the governments that have controlled the first outbreak. Before last weekend’s event, Beijing had not confirmed symptomatic infections for nearly two months.
“Strict epidemic prevention and control will always be leaks,” said Jin Dong-Yan, professor of precision medicine at the University of Hong Kong. “It is the characteristic of this virus, and we need to be well prepared.”
Professor Jin added that it was necessary to close more borders. The foreign nationals have not been able to enter China since the end of March.
“This virus has already come in for a certain period of time. If it had only been present for a short period of time, it would not likely have experienced a great surface,” he said.
The information comes a day after the Chinese authorities have published the entire genome sequence of the new coronavirus found in the Xinfadi market.
Nextstrain, an international mapping project that follows the virus that spread and mutate, classified the strain found in Xinfadi similar, the novel coronavirus found in Europe.
“The epidemic in Beijing . . . is related to viruses circulating in Europe,” Nextstrain wrote on Twitter, the classification in the framework of the European “clade” or a family of viruses.
Nextstrain added that, in comparison with other strains worldwide and a higher level of abstraction, the nearest sequences” are from the Czech Republic, Taiwan, Greece and Portugal.
The three strains of virus found in Beijing, in the new home, appears to be the “parent” of the other two, according to gene sequences published.
The two “children” viruses have two mutated twice, suggesting that they had been reproducing for a certain period of time before Beijing, the most recent of the epidemic.
“We can’t exaggerate what we know, while all of this is reasonable speculation,” said Professor Jin, adding that the survey data would be needed — such as tracking groups of people associated with the Xinfadi market to explain the origin of the epidemic in Beijing.
Additional reporting by Nian Liu in Beijing and Xueqiao Wang in Shanghai
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