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Beijing closed the city's largest wholesale food market Saturday after the discovery of seven cases of the new coronavirus in the previous two days.

Zhang Wenhong, the high-profile head of the infectious diseases department at Shanghai's Huashan Hospital, told Caixin on Sunday that the lack of cases with no ties to the market meant that authorities had likely spotted the cluster early.

"The risk of the epidemic spreading is very high, so we should take resolute and decisive measures", Xu Hejiang, spokesman at the Beijing city government, said at a news conference on Monday.

The cases are linked to the Xinfadi market in the southwest of the city, which supplies most of the capital's fresh fruits and vegetables.

Sun has ordered officials to take the "strictest" measures to track and trace the infection in areas near Xinfadi market, which was sealed off Saturday.

The city has now become a new epicenter of the outbreak, as 36 of the 57 new cases have been recorded there. On Friday, authorities reported another six cases - all of them, including Tang, linked to the Xinfadi market. Officials said the pilot programme will help authorities gauge what is needed to guard against possible virus flare-ups.

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Some provincial governments are warning residents not to travel to the capital.

Ten of the other cases were brought from outside the country and three were found in Hebei province just outside Beijing.

South Korea's government reported 34 more coronavirus cases, adding to an upward trend in infections.

Authorities imposed a blockade on 11 residential complexes near the market, strictly prohibiting anyone from entering or leaving.

Tests have also been conducted on some 19,000 people who live in the district's shut-down communities or had visited the market in the past two weeks, the statement said. The following day, the city tested 76,499 people, 59 of whom were positive, a health official said at a press briefing Monday morning.

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State-run media reported that the virus was detected on chopping boards used to handle imported salmon, and that major supermarkets had removed the fish from their stocks.

The outbreak in Beijing, China's cultural and political center where its business elites and political leadership reside, is set to be a reckoning for the Asian giant's strategy of aggressive virus control.

Beijing has no idea where the infection came from, but researchers believe the strain circulating in Europe and elsewhere might be to blame for the new outbreak.

The elected community militias, who in normal times address cases such as infidelity and robberies of chickens, or go after badly behaved mayors, judges and other officials, say they now use lashes to punish those breaking quarantine.

- "It isn't weakening" - The Middle East's hardest hit country Iran reported its own grim uptick on Sunday, recording more than 100 new virus deaths in a single day for the first time since April 13.

Chinese authorities have shut down the city's Fengtai district and other subsections in a city that has a population of almost 22 million people.

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