China: Overseas mail from Canada may have caused 1st Omicron case in Beijing

Canada's has called China's claim "extraordinary."

Matthias Ang | January 18, 2022, 02:51 PM

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China has claimed that overseas mail from Canada could be the source of the first Omicron infection in the capital city of Beijing.

China claimed mail from Canada tested positive for Omicron

According to a report by the Beijing Center for Disease Prevention and Control (BCDC), the patient had not left the city for 14 days prior to being detected and occasionally handled international mail at work.

The agency highlighted that the Omicron strain was found on a mail which was sent from Canada on Jan. 7 and received on Jan. 11 in Beijing. Samples were taken from the both the package's outer and inner surfaces, as well as from the documents within it.

In addition, genetic sequencing of the virus contracted by the patient showed differences with other Omicron-infected cases within China, but high similarities to strains found in North America and Singapore in December 2021.

The report subsequently concluded:

"To sum up, combined with the epidemiological history of the case, the test results of suspicious items, and the genetic sequencing results of the case specimens, the possibility of contracting the virus through foreign items cannot be ruled out."

Thus far, 69 close contacts of the case have been isolated, with none of them testing positive for Covid-19.

Public urged to wear gloves and masks when receiving mail and packages from overseas

The BCDC also urged the Chinese public to do the following:

  • Minimise their purchase of overseas products;
  • Wear masks and disposable gloves in the event they do receive such packages;
  • Strive for a contactless delivery as much as possible and maintain a safe distance from the courier; and
  • Try to open one's mail outdoors and avoid taking the external packaging back home.

Bloomberg reported that China had previously warned its public in November 2021 that Covid-19 could be transmitted via parcels sent by mail. Hundreds of parcels received were tested after three workers at a children's clothing maker in Hebei province tested positive for the virus.

What does Canada say?

A statement on Canada Post's website said:

"The World Health Organization (WHO) and Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) have made public assurances that the risk when handling mail, including international mail, is low.

According to the PHAC, there is no known risk of coronaviruses entering Canada on parcels or packages. In general, because of poor survivability of coronaviruses on surfaces, there is a low risk of spread from products or packaging shipped over a period of days or weeks. Currently, there is no evidence of Covid-19 being transmitted by imported goods or packages."

Canada's Federal Health Minister, Jean-Yves Duclos, has also called China's claim "an extraordinary view", Canadian media CBC News reported.

He added that while he had his own view of why China was making such a claim, he deferred to experts on how the virus had spread.

“We’ll check with officials and our partners around the world. I think this is something not only new, but intriguing and certainly not in accordance with what we have done both internationally and domestically.”

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Top collage Left image via Global Times, right image by Liam Truong via Unsplash