But small, sporadic clusters have continued to resurface, regardless of a number of the world’s strictest border restrictions and quarantine measures.
Apart from incoming vacationers, Chinese officers suspect the virus is being introduced by one other wrongdoer — imports of frozen meals.
But China claims it has confirmed that it is attainable to contract Covid-19 from meals packaging and is doubling down on efforts to forestall it.
Jin Dongyan, a virology professor on the University of Hong Kong, mentioned whereas there’s such a chance, the CDC didn’t present strong proof of the transmission. He mentioned the employees may have contracted the virus from elsewhere after which contaminated the meals packaging. The lacking step, he mentioned, could be to evaluate the genetic sequences of the virus in the Qingdao staff and in individuals who dealt with the meals on the supply of the imports.
“Every virus has its own marks. If they match, then we can say there is a chain of evidence,” he mentioned.
This week, Chinese authorities once more tightened procedures, after a employee for a frozen meals firm in the port metropolis of Tianjin examined constructive for the virus final weekend.
On Monday, the Chinese authorities introduced that each one shipments of refrigerated and frozen meals imports should be disinfected earlier than they’re allowed into the market. The requirement contains each the inside and outer packaging of those merchandise, and the automobiles used to transport them.
“We will earnestly implement preventative disinfection of cold-chain food imports at ports of entry and strengthen inter-agency cooperation to stop the importation of Covid-19 through cold-chain food products,” Bi Kexin, a senior official in cost of meals security on the General Administration of Customs, mentioned at a information convention Thursday.
The extraordinary measures are in addition to in depth screening that has already been launched.
As of Thursday, Chinese customs mentioned it had halted imports from 99 meals firms throughout 20 international locations the place international manufacturing facility staff have been mentioned to have contracted Covid-19.
Meanwhile, customs authorities throughout China have stepped up coronavirus testing on frozen meals imports, particularly seafood. As of Thursday, they’d carried out random spot checks on some 873,000 samples, amongst which 13 have been mentioned to have examined constructive.
Blaming the imports
China turned suspicious of imported frozen meals after an outbreak emerged from the most important wholesale meals market in Beijing in June.
Wu didn’t elaborate on how he reached the conclusion, but different Chinese scientists and well being officers have additionally pointed to imported frozen seafood because the possible wrongdoer of that outbreak.
Jin, the virologist from the University of Hong Kong, stays skeptical. “This is a very weak paper. Nothing can be concluded from the study,” he mentioned.
Is it attainable to catch Covid-19 from meals or packaging?
The coronavirus spreads principally individual to individual by respiratory droplets when an contaminated individual coughs, sneezes or talks. While it’s technically attainable to catch Covid-19 from meals or packaging, experts say it requires the convergence of a collection of low-probability occasions.
First, an contaminated employee would want to contaminate the meals or its packaging with a virus load excessive sufficient to trigger an an infection — probably by sneezing, coughing or shouting over it with out a face masks.
Then, the virus should survive the lengthy journey of worldwide transport and remain lively on the floor whereas ready to be unloaded and unpacked. From there, a meals handler on the receiving finish would have to contact the virus earlier than touching their nostril or mouth to change into contaminated.
Previous research have proven the viability of novel coronavirus differs from hours to weeks, relying on a variety of elements, together with the temperature, humidity and how much floor it’s on.
“Zero tolerance” method
Dale Fisher, an infectious illness specialist on the National University of Singapore, is finding out how lengthy the novel coronavirus can survive on refrigerated and frozen meat and salmon. His findings will probably be used to assess the potential of outbreaks emanating from imported meals.
He mentioned staff on the receiving finish of the meals shipments ought to follow good hygiene by preserving their work surfaces clear and washing their palms steadily. But he does not consider customers are prone to catching the virus from frozen or refrigerated meals packaging, as a result of each time the product will get moved round or touched, the virus will get diluted.
“Because if it’s uncommon for those early food handlers, then further down the list, when it’s been brushed, wiped, moved around, put on one shelf and moved to another shelf… it would be too diluted when it gets to (the consumers),” he mentioned.
In most international locations, even when imported frozen meals did infect a meals handler, it would not be seen due to the big quantity of lively circumstances, Fisher mentioned. “You’ll only notice it in countries with no cases,” he mentioned.
China, however, has doubled down on its scrutiny on abroad shipments. But the widespread screening China deploys won’t be relevant to different international locations the place infections are rampant, Fisher mentioned.
“Clearly, in the US and Europe, there’ll be absolutely no use in testing food, because there are so many cases spread by people,” he mentioned. “But China has really zero tolerance towards Covid-19.”
“When there are trillions of tons of food moving around the world, even an unlikely event will happen a few times.”
But even when there’s such a threat, there isn’t a want to ban meals imports, in accordance to Fisher.
“The intervention is just to make sure the source of the food has got Covid-safe measures so the food can’t be contaminated,” he mentioned. “We’re not saying stop sending food around the world.”