China blames packages sent from outside omicron cases

BEIJING (AP) — Packages sent from abroad may have spread the omicron variant of the coronavirus in Beijing and other parts of China, state media reported Tuesday, despite doubts among the foreign scientific community about such contagions.

The State Post Office said it has ordered stricter measures to ventilate and disinfect places where mail from outside the country is handled. Workers must wear protective gear, get a booster dose of the vaccine and be tested regularly, according to its website. International packages will be isolated, cleaned and held for some time to ensure they are virus-free, it added.

Globally, health experts maintain that the virus spreads primarily through droplets emitted by an infected person when breathing, speaking, coughing and sneezing.

The World Health Organization notes that coronaviruses “need a live animal or human host to multiply and survive, and cannot multiply on the surface of a food container.”

China, however, has repeatedly emphasized the danger of contagion through packaging, even though only traces of the virus have been found on it, and has stepped up testing of frozen and other foods shipped from abroad. .

The Global Times newspaper, of the ruling Communist Party, cited the Beijing Center for Disease Control and virologists to establish a relationship between the latest infections and shipments from abroad. In his report on Tuesday, he noted that investigators found that newly infected people had received packages from Canada and the United States.

China has locked down parts of Beijing’s Haidian district after detecting three cases just weeks before the Chinese capital hosts the Winter Olympics. In the tech hub of Shanzhen in the south, another person tested positive for omicron after handling packages shipped from North America.

The country remains on high alert for new outbreaks on the eve of the Games. Some 20 million people are confined and massive tests have been ordered in neighborhoods and entire cities where infections have been registered.

Organizers of the Beijing Games announced Monday that only “selected” spectators will be allowed at the competitions, which officially start on February 4. Beijing had already banned the presence of the public from abroad and did not put tickets on sale for the general public.

China has largely avoided mass outbreaks with a regimen of lockdowns, screenings and travel restrictions, though it continues to battle spikes in several cities, including Tianjin, which is just an hour from Beijing.

Chinese health authorities reported 127 new nationally transmitted cases on Tuesday.

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