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Beijing Blames Dalian Frozen Foods for Latest COVID-19 Outbreak

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Published: December 6, 2021
Vendors wait for customers at their stall selling frozen meat and seafood balls at a market.
Vendors wait for customers at their stall selling frozen meat and seafood balls at a market. (Image: NICOLAS ASFOURI/AFP via Getty Images)

In November, the port city of Dalian saw an outbreak of COVID-19, which hasn’t been contained. Authorities are blaming a cold-chain enterprise for the outbreak, accusing the supervisors of dereliction of duty. Last month, authorities ordered all businesses handling imported chilled and frozen foods in the region to suspend their operations.

“The latest local COVID-19 resurgence in Dalian began on November 4, with the first infected individual a cold storage worker. With a permanent population of 7.45 million, the city has undertaken five rounds of city-wide nucleic acid testing of local residents,” reported the state-backed media outlet the Global Times.

The worker is said to have been infected by coronavirus-contaminated imported food. Between Nov. 4 and Nov. 27, Dalian registered 346 cases of COVID-19; the first five days alone accounted for 100 cases. Authorities claim that they will focus on managing entries into Dalian and improving the mechanism for epidemic prevention.

Dalian’s COVID-19 outbreak is part of a larger coronavirus wave that was triggered on Oct. 17 after a tour group from Shanghai visited the Inner Mongolia region earlier that month. Some members of the group contracted the virus, reportedly from a “foreign source,” and eventually spread it to other regions.

Accusing frozen food imports has been a tactic used by Beijing to shift the blame of new waves of infections. In January, Chinese authorities pointed fingers at American pork, Brazilian beef, and Saudi shrimp for having traces of the virus. Beijing also imposed extra checks on foreign meat imports. The United States and the European Union have disputed assertions made by the communist regime. 

Despite communist China’s attempt to blame frozen food as a source of COVID-19, the World Health Organization (WHO) dismisses such possibilities. On its website, the organization insists that coronaviruses “cannot multiply in food” whether it be frozen or not. These viruses “need a live animal or human host” to live and multiply.

“There is currently no evidence that people can catch COVID-19 from food or food packaging. COVID-19 is a respiratory illness and the transmission route is through person-to-person contact and through direct contact with respiratory droplets generated when an infected person coughs or sneezes,” the WHO states.

Factories in Dalian have suffered a month-long shutdown due to the COVID-19 outbreak and might have to remain inactive for one more month. Maximal control measures will continue to be imposed on imported cold-chain enterprises until Jan. 15 so as to “resolutely block the risk of epidemic spread.”

The strict regulations have significantly affected shipments for processed cod, hake, pollock, and salmon fillets, which are now running a month behind schedule. The tighter rules will only worsen the situation. 

In an interview with Seafood Source, Robin Wang, CEO of a seafood-focused marketing agency in China, said that importers have been unable to get their products to the rest of the country. High demand and supply squeezes are pushing up prices.

“Throughout the year, demand levels for seafood have remained strong, continuing to trend up… With lower market supply, we have seen prices increase as well. Prices could rise even more in the short term, but will remain dependent on how quickly products can be released. Officials have reported that this recent outbreak is in the last week of containment, which could suggest protocols for product release may follow soon if all goes well,” Wang said.