China says omicron may have spread via postal parcels despite overseas doubts

In this photo released by Xinhua News Agency, a staff member disinfects packages at a gated community where a locally transmitted COVID-19 case was discovered in Haidian in Beijing, China, Tuesday, Jan. 18, 2022 (Ren Chao/Xinhua via AP)

BEIJING (AP) — Chinese state media say packages mailed from overseas may have spread the omicron variant of the coronavirus to Beijing and elsewhere, despite doubts from overseas health experts about the possibility of virus transmission via packaging.

The state post office said it had ordered stricter measures to ventilate and disinfect sites where items posted from overseas are processed. Postal workers must wear protective gear, receive reminders and undergo regular testing, it said on its website. International packages should be isolated, cleaned and kept for a holding period to ensure they are virus-free, he said.

Global health experts say the virus is mainly spread through respiratory droplets when infected people breathe, talk, cough and sneeze.

The World Health Organization says coronaviruses “require a living animal or human host to multiply and survive and cannot multiply on the surface of food packaging.”

However, China has repeatedly highlighted what it calls the danger of packaging infections, although only traces of the virus have been found on such items, and has stepped up testing of frozen foods and other items. items shipped from overseas.

The Communist Party newspaper Global Times cited the Beijing Center for Disease Control and virologists as linking recent infections to packages from overseas. He said on Tuesday that investigators found newly infected people had picked up packages posted from Canada and the United States.

China has locked down parts of Beijing’s Haidian district after four cases were detected, just weeks before the capital is due to host the Winter Olympics. Another person from Shenzhen’s southern technology center who tested positive for omicron handled packages sent from North America, the newspaper said.

An additional case has been reported in the city’s Chaoyang district, and an office building in Shunyi, where the capital’s main international airport is located, has been placed under lockdown, with all inside to undergo testing after that a suspected case has been reported.

Local schools in Beijing mostly went online in the two weeks before the start of the Lunar New Year holiday on January 31.

China remains on high alert for new outbreaks ahead of the Olympics. Around 20 million people are in lockdown and mass testing has been ordered in entire cities where cases have been found.

Beijing Games organizers announced on Monday that only “selected” spectators will be allowed into the events, which will officially open on February 4. Beijing had already announced that no fans from outside the country would be allowed and did not offer tickets to the general public.

China has largely avoided major virus outbreaks with lockdowns, mass testing and travel restrictions, though it continues to battle power surges in several cities, including the port of Tianjin, about an hour from Beijing. .

A city that has endured weeks of lockdown under China’s “zero COVID” policy appears to have received some relief. Falling case numbers in Xi’an, a city of 13 million known to be home to the Terracotta Warrior Statue Army, prompted authorities to gradually allow people to leave their homes and return at work.

Only one additional case was reported in the city among the 127 new locally transmitted Chinese cases announced on Tuesday.

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