Beijing tests food, parcel couriers for COVID-19 as city checks widen

Beijing tests food, parcel couriers for COVID-19 as city checks widen

Frozen seafood products made of imported shrimps are seen inside a sealed freezer at a supermarket
Frozen seafood products made of imported shrimps are seen inside a sealed freezer at a supermarket following a new outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Beijing, China June 19, 2020. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins

BEIJING: Officials in Beijing are carrying out nucleic acid tests on all food and parcel delivery personnel as they ramp up efforts to rein in an outbreak of the coronavirus in the Chinese capital, state-backed Beijing News reported on Saturday (Jun 20).

Officials have been expanding testing across the city of 20 million since a cluster of new infections linked to a food wholesale market erupted just over a week ago. The outbreak, the first in Beijing in months, has now surpassed previous peak numbers in early February.

READ: China reports 27 new coronavirus cases, including 22 in Beijing

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A nucleic acid test involves a swab sample taken from the back of a person's throat or respiratory tract, and the sample is then tested for the presence of the coronavirus' genome.

Testing for COVID-19 initially focused on residential areas near the sprawling Xinfadi market and on people who worked or shopped there.

Officials are now targeting the tens of thousands of delivery personnel who regularly traverse the city, where fleets of motorised pedicabs and scooters ridden by couriers delivering parcels and food are a common sight.

Workers at SF Express, China's second-biggest courier firm, arrived in batches at testing points in Beijing on Friday evening, Beijing News reported.

Food delivery firm Meituan Dianping confirmed on Friday all its Beijing riders would be tested and those who had carried out deliveries in high-risk areas would be temporarily taken off duty, undergo nucleic acid tests and be quarantined at home for 14 days.

Customers will be able to view details on disinfection of the delivery package and their courier's body temperature online, Meituan said on its Wechat account.

Beijing News said that all couriers in the city would be tested by next week.

READ: China finds heavy coronavirus traces in seafood, meat sections of Beijing food market

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Officials have highlighted the risk of contamination through packaging in Beijing, which reported 22 new cases on Friday. The city has now recorded more than 200 locally transmitted infections since Jun 11.

Officials have been testing people working in catering, including restaurant staff, as well as imported food after the virus was found on chopping boards at Xinfadi used to handle salmon.

WHOLE COMMUNITIES TO BE TESTED

A total of 2.3 million nucleic acid tests had been carried out in Beijing as of 6am on Saturday, Zhang Qiang, an official from Beijing's municipal committee, said at a news conference.

Residents of 40 communities under lockdown in the capital are required to self-isolate at home to avoid possible further transmission of the coronavirus, Zhang said.

Those who do not comply will be centrally quarantined for 14 days, after which they should take another nucleic acid test and are free to leave if the result is negative, he added.

READ: China halts European salmon imports over suspected link to COVID-19 outbreak

In Dongcheng district in the eastern part of Beijing, two Reuters journalists received notice on Friday that everyone living in their communities would be tested, even though they were in low-risk areas.

Dongcheng currently has four neighbourhoods designated as medium-risk, while there are now 34 medium-risk neighbourhoods across the whole city.

Mainland China saw 27 new confirmed COVID-19 cases on Friday, with four imported and the other local transmission reported in the northern Hebei province that surrounds Beijing.

There were no new deaths recorded on Friday, leaving the death toll at 4,634.

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Source: Reuters

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