Qingdao confirms 'object-to-human' virus passage

By GT staff reporters Source: Global Times Published: 2020/10/20 21:48:40

Customs steps up imported goods quarantine, inspection, focuses on cold chains

A health worker takes a swab sample from a resident for COVID-19 test in Shibei District of Qingdao, east China's Shandong Province. Photo: Xinhua

It has been found that the novel coronavirus can pass from objects to humans, and exist in cold chain conditions for a long time, the Qingdao government in East China's Shandong Province announced Tuesday, as it revealed the spread route of the virus in the latest local outbreak from imported frozen food products.

The discovery was made public by Luan Xin, deputy mayor of Qingdao, the latest Chinese city to conduct a citywide COVID-19 test, who called the discovery "the world's first."

Chinese Customs insiders told the Global Times on Tuesday that they have been upgrading the spot check methods with more comprehensive screening of imported goods, with emphasis on imported cold chain products, starting September, which came even before Qingdao's announcement that it discovered "object-to-human" virus passage.

An employee with the General Administration of Customs hotline and another Customs officer who requested anonymity confirmed the stronger goods quarantine and inspection measures on Tuesday.

The Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced on Sunday that it had detected and isolated living coronavirus in a positive sample from the outer packaging of imported frozen cod

It was the first time it has been confirmed under cold chain transport conditions outside the laboratory. The coronavirus can survive on packaging for a long time, showing that the virus can survive in cold chain conditions across borders, Luan said.

He said this will add pressure to the city's work of preventing imported coronavirus cases, and requires the examination of people and objects entering China.

The city vowed to strictly examine all imported cold chain products. Control measures include expanding nucleic acid tests on cold chain industry workers. Those who have had direct contact with cold chain products cannot leave the designated area, and will receive tests every three to five days. Those who work for more than five days need to be tested every five days.

Wholesalers who purchase imported cold chain products have to report to local authorities 24 hours before the food arrives, said Chen Wansheng, a Qingdao official.

Fan Xubing, a senior seafood industry analyst, told the Global Times on Tuesday that he does not think it's necessary to check every imported product, since the cost will be too high.

"All Customs offices in the world inspect goods in the form of spot checks, with the only difference being the sampling rate," Fan said.

"Under normal circumstances, the proportion of Customs spot checks will be 1 percent. But since sampling is random, no one can cheat on it," said Fan, adding that the whole process involves sampling before sending them to a laboratory for further inspection.

Although Fan does not know the sampling rate of the Qingdao port, a sampling rate of 5-10 percent is already very high to him, speaking as a food trade business insider himself.

Those discoveries are very meaningful for the epidemic prevention and control work amid the escalating global pandemic, and serve as a warning to the public that in winter and early spring, the virus, in theory, can live anywhere and infect anyone, Yang Zhanqiu, deputy director of the pathogen biology department at Wuhan University, told the Global Times.

"The scale of frozen fish and meat imports is too large to completely cut off. And Customs authorities are strengthening spot checks on cold chain items to almost all containers," a Customs officer told the Global Times on Tuesday.

A Beijing Customs source told the Global Times that the situation has put pressure on their work, and that Beijing has already suspended cold chain related imports.

Newspaper headline: City finds ‘object-to-human’ virus passage

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