China inspects food imports for fear of virus

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Beijing: China has launched a nationwide campaign to observe food imports following a new coronovirus outbreak in a wholesale market in Beijing, with experts suggesting it is similar to European strains.
Authorities have tested hundreds of thousands of people for contagion, while the neighborhood has been closed and schools closed to prevent a second wave of epidemics that China brought under massive control.
Another 25 cases were confirmed in Beijing on Friday, with 183 total infections from the previous week.
Chinese authorities on Thursday shared genome data of the latest outbreak with the World Health Organization and the international scientific community.
Preliminary findings suggest it “came from Europe”, but differs from what is currently spreading there, said Zhang Yong of the Chinese Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“It is older than the virus currently roaming in Europe,” Zhang said in a report published on Friday by the Communist Party’s anti-corruption watchdog.
Zhang expressed the possibility of the virus lingering on imported frozen food or in the wholesale market itself, resulting in the similarity of the old strains.
The virus was found on a chopping board used to handle imported salmon in the market, and Beijing officials on Friday advised citizens to dispose of seafood and bean products purchased from Sinfadi.
Xinfadi supplies more than 70 percent of Beijing’s fresh produce and is temporarily closed due to the cluster.
The virus is believed to have first appeared in a market that sold live animals in the central city of Wuhan.
Song Yuakian, an official of the General Administration of Customs, said the agency had launched a nationwide campaign to inspect all fresh products kept in “high-risk countries” in colder temperatures.
Products include seafood, meat and frozen vegetables, Song said at a press conference.
On Thursday, he said authorities inspected 15,638 samples – all of which tested negative.
China also suspended importation of products from German meat company Toennies, as an employee there tested positive for the virus, although Song said he had “discovered no evidence of infection through eating food”.
“There is no evidence to prove other methods of transmission [besides aerosols, respiratory droplets or close contact], “Fang said.
But Feng advised consumers to avoid touching raw fish or meat while preparing food and to be hygiene conscious.
Scientists warned against the initial conclusion on the Beijing cluster.
“It is possible that the virus now spreading in Beijing has traveled from Wuhan to Europe and now back to China,” said Ben Cowling, a professor at the university HogcogSchool of Public Health.
But he told AFP that the first case has not yet been identified and it may be too late to find out how the outbreak began.
Fran├žois Balloux of University College London wrote on Twitter that – based on the data shared – there was a local broadcast for some time before the outbreak was identified.
“Their position in the tree does not allow descent to be geographically specified. They can originate from anywhere,” he wrote.
The city on Friday suspended several bus routes between Beijing and adjoining Hebei province, fearing a new outbreak extending beyond the capital.
After the resurgence, China brought the virus under control on a large scale and relaxed restrictions on movement inside the country.
There are now 293 people sick with COVID-19 in China, the highest number since the beginning of May.
Until recently, most of the new cases were imported by citizens returning from abroad.

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