Coastal cities in China have begun testing live seafood as part of the latest efforts to prevent the spread of the contagious Omicron coronavirus variant under the government’s dynamic zero-Covid strategy.
Xiamen, the famous tourist city located in China’s southeastern coastal province of Fujian, has ordered PCR tests for both fishermen and their harvests after they return from the sea, according to the city’s fishery supervisor.
“We test humans as well as what they caught at the same time – sample tests for the same batch of seafood,” a staff member of the Xiamen Municipal Oceanic Development Bureau told the South China Morning Post on Thursday (Aug 18).
“We’re not the only place doing this. We took the lesson from Hainan, which is witnessing a serious outbreak. It’s said that it may be triggered by marine product transactions between local fishermen and their overseas counterparts,” he said.
Over the weekend, the Hainan Daily, the official newspaper of the southern island province of Hainan, reported that medical workers in its Danzhou city swabbed fish on fishing boats as the city went into an entire lockdown after new infections were detected in Sanya at the beginning of August and have since spread to the whole island.
As of Wednesday, the province had reported roughly 14,000 local cases since Aug 1, including about 8,000 who were asymptomatic. It was driven by an Omicron subvariant first discovered in China, which had “very likely” been imported via seafood transactions between local and foreign fishermen, the provincial government said at a media conference on Aug 4.
At that time, Xiamen had reported just 56 local cases.
A video of medical workers from the city collecting samples from live seafood for Covid-19 tests went viral on social media and was widely ridiculed by online users on Wednesday.
In the video, workers wearing full white hazmat suits and white gloves are seen inserting a cotton bud into the mouth of a fish, and rubbing the body with the buds when swabbing crabs and shrimp.
The same operation was carried out in seafood markets in Shanghai in late March during its worst Covid-19 outbreak that led to a traumatic two-month lockdown later.
Apart from aquatic products, PCR tests have been conducted on a variety of animals including chickens and cats across China over the past couple of years.
Chinese health officials have frequently tied imported cases to food and mail.
However, last month, the State Council said the latest research showed the coronavirus will die on most surfaces within one day and ordered to stop testing imported goods transported at a temperature above 10 degrees Celsius.