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Experts Skeptical of Beijing’s Claim That 1st Local Omicron Case Came From Canada

Juliet Wei covers China news and U.S.-China relations and has worked as a correspondent with Senate and House Correspondent Credential at Washington DC. She holds an M.A. in Specialized Journalism from the University of Southern California.
Published: January 19, 2022
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As CBC in Canada reported, Pang Xinghuo, deputy director of the Beijing CDC said that a case of Omicron in Beijing may have spread from a package received from Canada; “an extraordinary view," Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos said. (Image: CBC in Canada)

China health authorities have said that the first case of Omicron in Beijing may have been transmitted via a parcel mailed from Canada — a claim that Canadian experts said has no scientific grounding. 

Pang Xinghuo, deputy director of the Beijing Center for Disease Prevention and Control (CDC), said on Monday, Jan. 17, that a woman tested positive after opening up a piece of mail from Canada that had traveled through the U.S. and Hong Kong. 

Other items shipped with the parcel had also tested positive for the COVID-19, Pang said. Jiang Chu, head of the Haidian District CDC in Beijing, added that the local case of Omicron was the first to appear in the Chinese capital. 

“I find this to be, let’s say, an extraordinary view,” Canadian Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos told reporters at a press conference later in the day, Canada’s CBC reported.

Dr. Anna Banerji, an associate professor of pediatrics and infectious disease at the Dalla Lana School of Public Health, told CBC that the Omicron variant of COVID-19 “would never survive” on an envelope shipped across the world. 

“I don’t think any of that’s based on science,” she said, referring to the Beijing CDC’s statements.  

As reported by China’s Sohu News, Jiang Chu said that while coronavirus had previously been detected in mail packages, the “virus density was so low that it became inactive after two or three days of exposure to the outside environment.” 

But the concentration of the virus found on the package from Toronto and the amount of time it survived “exceeded our expectations,” Jiang claimed. 

According to the Public Health Agency of Canada, the Omicron variant primarily spreads through airborne human-to-human transmission. 

“While mail may be contaminated, the risk of COVID-19 infection when handling paper mail or cardboard packages, including international mail, is extremely low,” the agency said in an emailed statement.

‘Imported’ cases 

The Chinese regime declared victory in the “people’s war” against COVID-19 early on in the global pandemic, and often claims that sporadic outbreaks of the disease in China are due to imported cases. 

Many of these “imported” cases are allegedly spread via frozen food, but international experts doubt Beijing’s story


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Echoing their Canadian counterparts, U.S authorities including the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and CDC agree that COVID-19 does not transmit via food or food packing. 

“It’s particularly important to note that COVID-19 is a respiratory illness that is spread from person to person,” the FDA stated on Feb. 18 last year.  

In addition to blaming imported food, Beijing has suggested that the SARS-CoV-2 virus, which causes COVID-19, did not originate in Wuhan, but in the U.S. or other Western countries.  

China-watchers note that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has a strong desire to cover up the origins of the pandemic, as well as the true figures of dead and infected in the country. 

According to the CCP mouthpiece People’s Daily Online, on Jan. 12, the Shaanxi Market Supervision Administration released a consumer alert via its official account on social media platform WeChat, saying that recently imported dragon fruit had tested positive for COVID-19 in various parts of China.

Xi’an, the capital of Shaanxi Province, has been under various forms of lockdown since mid-December, with measures implemented there being some of the strictest since the initial outbreak in Wuhan, central China. Thousands of cases have been officially admitted to in the city of 13 million. 

In Beijing, when an outbreak broke out in June 2020, the authorities blamed imported salmon as the source of infection; in Shenzhen, when confirmed cases appeared in August 2020, officials blamed Brazilian frozen chicken wings; in Qingdao, when confirmed cases appeared that October, they blamed frozen cod; in Tianjin, when confirmed cases appeared in November, Tianjin officials blamed German frozen pig feet and North American pig heads.

By the end of 2020, confirmed cases emerged in Shanghai, Sichuan, Jiangxi, Zhejiang, Henan, and Shandong, China, at which point officials blamed Ecuador’s frozen pomfret, Brazilian pork products and halibut, Argentine pork, Indian fish, and imported beef from New Zealand.