Chinese Officials Suspect Beijing Omicron Case Linked To Overseas Mail From Canada
Even as most of the world has been adjusting to life with Covid-19, China has been targetting zero Covid-19 cases.
However, the country has been battling against small outbreaks of the Omicron variant.
On Saturday (15 Jan), Beijing saw its first locally transmitted Omicron case. Authorities reportedly suspect that the infection came from a package from Canada.
Chinese officials are now urging residents to wear masks and gloves when opening mail from abroad.
Beijing patient with Omicron infection handled international mail
On Saturday (15 Jan), Beijing detected its first case of the Omicron variant, reported CNN.
Soon after on Monday (17 Jan), the Beijing Municipal Health Commission shared that the individual in question had not left the city 2 weeks before testing positive.
However, she would occasionally handle international mail in her line of work.
According to The Straits Times (ST), no other staff who worked or lived with the woman tested positive.
Following that, samples taken from a package and some documents sent from Canada on 7 Jan tested positive for the virus.
The mail had allegedly passed through the United States and Hong Kong before arriving in Beijing on 11 Jan.
Authorities also revealed that genetic sequencing showed that the variant detected in the person was different from Omicron-infected patients in other parts of China. Instead, it was similar to that of infected travellers from North America and Singapore in Dec 2021.
Given their findings, the Beijing Health Authorities thus cannot rule out the possibility that the overseas mail had infected the woman.
WHO says Covid-19 transmission via packages unlikely
In the past, Chinese officials have alleged that Covid-19 was brought into the country from various origins, including overseas frozen food.
Most recently, just before China’s biggest 11.11 sale in Nov 2021, authorities warned that Covid-19 may be transmitted through parcels.
However, the World Health Organisation (WHO), as well as the United States Centers for Disease Control (CDC), said this was unlikely.
They elaborated that the risk of infection from contaminated surfaces is low and becomes even less likely with time.
According to the CDC, within 3 days, there is a 99% reduction in virus traces left on surfaces, reported Channel NewsAsia (CNA).
Beijing residents urged to wear masks & gloves when opening mail
Nonetheless, with the Beijing Winter Olympics looming in just a month, China is not taking any chances.
The authorities have urged Beijing residents to wear masks and gloves when opening mail from overseas. They also advised against international purchases.
In addition, residents will have to maintain a safe distance from couriers who make deliveries.
According to ST, Chinese officials have warned of increased transmission risks in the frigid winter.
These concerns about contaminated mail have also prompted China’s State Post Bureau to mandate disinfection of packaging. Officials additionally made booster shots mandatory for all staff and couriers handling mail.
In the meantime, authorities are continuing to investigate how Covid-19 managed to enter their borders, despite their tight security.
Hope China will be able to keep infections at bay
China has always stuck to a strict policy of targetting zero Covid-19 cases.
With so much on the line now, it’s no surprise that they are erring on the safe side of things.
Hopefully, even with the emergence of Omicron clusters, China will be able to ringfence and keep infections at bay and the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics can proceed as planned.
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Featured image adapted from Xinhua.