2 Tianjin frozen food workers test positive for virus

North China's Tianjin City reported one confirmed COVID-19 case and another asymptomatic case on Tuesday, both locally transmitted infections.

Chinese health officials said on Wednesday that two cold-chain storage workers in the port city of Tianjin were infected with COVID-19, as the country shifts focus to contaminated imports after a number of outbreaks linked to frozen food.

North China’s Tianjin City reported one confirmed COVID-19 case and another asymptomatic case on Tuesday, both locally transmitted infections.

Officials said the two infected workers “had previously both had contact with contaminated cold-chain food products.”

Both people work at a logistics park in the Binhai New Area and are colleagues and roommates of a previously diagnosed asymptomatic case, according to the city’s center for disease control and prevention. A neighbor of the symptomless case also tested positive on Wednesday.

The center said both cold-chain workers were diagnosed during their quarantined medical observation after they were identified as close contacts of the asymptomatic case.

Meanwhile, two cities in the southeastern Fujian Province said on Wednesday they found traces of the virus in shipments of pomfret fish from India and beef from Argentina.

In Wuhan, authorities said last week they had detected the virus on frozen beef from Brazil, while several other cities reported positive test results on samples from imported food, including Argentinian pork and Indian cuttlefish.

Customs officials who say the coronavirus has been found on frozen meat and on packaging have imposed temporary suspensions on suppliers. That prompted complaints by China’s trading partners. China’s foreign ministry defended the measures on Wednesday as “very reasonable and legitimate.”

“The relevant measures China took are necessary following the spirit of putting people’s lives first and protecting people’s health,” spokesman Zhao Lijian said.

Workers in hazmat suits were painstakingly screening food shipments across the country which has largely brought domestic infections under control but now faces risk of resurgence from imports.

Mass-testing campaigns have been rolled out after reports of coronavirus traces on imported food and packaging, with state TV showing workers disinfecting transport trucks and inspecting packages of frozen salmon.

Customs inspectors across the country have so far tested more than 800,000 samples from refrigerated imports and suspended shipments from 99 overseas suppliers, customs official Bi Kexin told a press conference last week.

Authorities have stepped up screening since coronavirus traces were found on equipment used to process imported salmon after a June outbreak in Beijing.

Transmission of COVID-19 across countries on frozen food is “possible but it has not been comprehensively studied so we do not know the extent of this spread,” Paul Tambyah, president of the Asia Pacific Society of Clinical Microbiology and Infection, told AFP.

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