In Beijing, there was a spike in Covid-19 cases last week, almost all of which were linked to the huge wholesale food market.
State media reported that the virus was detected on chopping boards used to import salmon in the Xinfadi market, which raised concerns across the country.
Supermarkets and restaurants throughout Beijing rushed to pull salmon from their shelves, and imports from Europe were halted.
On Wednesday, it was announced that a 22-year-old man, who sometimes cleaned frozen seafood, tested positive for the virus in Tianjin, near Beijing.
But the Chinese Center for Disease Control (CDC) said it was unlikely that the salmon was infected with the virus. So how and why did panic occur?
What happened in the market?
Last Thursday, Beijing announced its first case of the virus after 57 days without a local infection.
Since then, nearly 150 cases have been confirmed – almost all of which have been linked to the city’s largest wholesale market.
Xinfadi supplies 80% of Beijing’s vegetables and meat and is used by tens of thousands of people per day.
But unlike the Wuhan market, there is no evidence of wildlife trade in the Xinfadi market.
Traces of the virus were found on a cutting board used by the seller of imported salmon, the reports said.
But about 40 samples from the market tested positive for the virus – some of them were not from chopping boards used to cut salmon, a spokesman for the Beijing Municipal Health Commission said.
Can salmon be the host of the virus?
This is very unlikely.
An official from the China Center for Disease Control said there was no evidence that salmon was the host – or even the intermediate host – of the virus.
Shi Guoqing, deputy director of the CDC Emergency Response Center, said there was no trace of the virus on the salmon before it hit the market – suggesting that the virus was present on the market, not on the salmon itself.
And the experts agree.
- Beijing stops traveling as the viral surge continues
- Beijing tightens control to combat virus outbreak
“Viruses must rely on a viral receptor on the surface of host cells to infect cells. Without a specific receptor, they cannot successfully enter cells, ” Chen Gong, a virologist at Tsinghua University, told CGTN.
“All of the data known to date suggests that this type of receptor exists only in mammals, not fish.”
However, the CDC chief epidemiologist, Wu Zunyousaid the fish could not catch the virus in their natural habitat, but added that they might have been infected by workers during their capture or transportation.
In general, it is still unclear what the original source of the virus is or where it might have come from, although WHO has stated that it cannot be transmitted to people through food and drink.
“Coronaviruses cannot multiply in food; for breeding they need an animal or human body. ” This is stated in a document published on his website.
He also said that it was “highly unlikely” that it could spread through food packaging.
Will it affect salmon imports worldwide?
According to the Global Times, China imports about 80,000 tons of chilled and frozen salmon per year from countries such as Chile, Norway, the Faroe Islands, Australia and China.
The virus is not common in most of these countries – and Norway said its salmon was not a source after Norwegian salmon producers saw orders from China canceled over the weekend.
However, other countries around the world do not seem to be bothered by salmon speculation.
The Hong Kong Center for Food Safety confirmed that 16 samples of imported salmon from countries, including Chile, Iceland and Denmark, have tested negative for the virus.
Long lines have also been seen outside of the city’s sushi restaurants.
The Singapore Food Agency also stated that there was no evidence that the virus would be transmitted through food or even food packaging, although it stated that it would monitor “developments in this area.”