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A cluster of virus cases has been identified at a “work unit” located at the same address as China’s cybersecurity agency. Photo: Shutterstock

Coronavirus cluster at ‘work unit’ believed to be China’s cybersecurity agency in Beijing

  • Health official says 178 people have been quarantined and are under observation, with 11 of them testing positive
  • Cleaner from a property management firm that provides services to the unit thought to have been first case
China’s cybersecurity agency is believed to be the latest place in Beijing to be hit by an outbreak of the deadly coronavirus that was first reported in Wuhan and has spread around the world.

Pang Xinghuo, deputy director of the Beijing Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, on Thursday said a cluster of infections had been identified at a “work unit” in the Chinese capital early this week.

While Pang did not name the work unit, she did give its location – at the same address as the National Computer Network and Information Security Management Centre, China’s top cybersecurity agency. The centre operates under the internet watchdog, the Cyberspace Administration of China.

Pang said 178 people from the affected work unit had been isolated for medical observation, including 11 who had tested positive for the coronavirus.

Ten of the 11 confirmed cases were employees of a property management company that provided services to the work unit, while the other person worked for a catering company, she said.

Pang did not give details of the other 167 cases or say whether they were employees of the work unit or other places.

According to the health official, a cleaner from the property management company was believed to be the first case in the cluster. He was thought to have been infected by another worker who had travelled to neighbouring Hebei province in early February. That person had tested positive for the virus in his hometown of Handan in Hebei about 10 days ago.

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Pang said health authorities believed the cluster of cases was the result of cross-infections that took place in the dormitory and canteen of the property management firm.

She said the work unit had been “thoroughly sterilised” and the people in quarantine were being monitored.

“Since these cases originated from [a patient who contracted the virus] in Handan of Hebei [we have] determined that they were imported infections that happened in a cluster in the workplace,” Pang was quoted as saying by Beijing Daily.

Chinese officials have voiced concerns about the potential for a mass outbreak of the disease in the capital. Last week, health officials confirmed that at least two hospitals in Beijing had reported outbreaks of the pneumonia-like illness, with nearly 200 people being isolated and placed under medical observation.

A Beijing source who has contact with the cybersecurity centre said “dozens of employees” had been quarantined but there were no confirmed cases among agency staff yet.

The source, who requested anonymity, said the agency was continuing to operate normally.

“There has been no disruption to the centre’s operations,” he said.

The new strain of coronavirus, which causes a disease called Covid-19, has killed more than 2,700 people and infected over 78,000, mostly in China, since the epidemic began in December. The virus has now spread to every continent except for Antarctica.

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