Reality check: Could mail from Canada to China spread Omicron? – National

Chinese health authorities have claimed that the highly transmissible Omicron variant of COVID-19 may have arrived in the capital Beijing via a contaminated letter from Canada – a claim rejected and questioned by Canadian experts.

The Beijing Center for Disease Prevention and Control (BCDC) said in a press release on Monday that its first case of the Omicron variant in a resident of Beijing could be the result of international mail sent from Canada via the United States and Hong Kong.

The letter was sent on January 7 and received on January 11, the BCDC said.

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The Agency claimed that a comprehensive examination, sampling and testing of the posted papers showed traces of the Omicron variant.

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The person who tested positive had not traveled internationally or domestically 14 days before he became infected, it said.

“To summarize, combined with the epidemiological history of the case, the test results of suspicious objects and the gene sequencing results of the random samples, the possibility of contracting the virus through foreign objects cannot be ruled out,” the BCDC said.

It urged residents to minimize purchases of overseas goods and to wear masks and disposable gloves when receiving international mail.


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Beijing confirmed its first local case of Omicron on Saturday, weeks before the city is due to host the Winter Olympics in February.

Apart from Beijing, China has reported locally transmitted infections of the Omicron variant in at least four other provinces and municipalities: in the northern city of Tianjin, the central province of Henan, the southern province of Guangdong and the northeastern province of Liaoning. However, the total number of Omicron cases across China is still unclear.

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According to the World Health Organization (WHO), COVID-19 can be spread through indirect contact with contaminated surfaces, also known as fomit transmission.

But current evidence suggests that the virus is predominantly transmitted from person to person via airway droplets, the WHO says on its website.

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Dr. Gerald Evans, an infectious disease specialist at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ont., Said it was “unlikely” that a piece of mail from Canada would carry any contagious virus that survived intact and resulted in a COVID-19 transmission event in China.

“SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, does not survive in an infectious form for very long outside of an infected host or person,” he told Global News in an email.

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Evans cited a study published last week by the University of Bristol that found that the virus loses 90 percent of its infectivity after 20 minutes in respiratory particles exhaled by an infected person, with the majority of this loss occurring in the first five minutes.

Colin Furness, an infection control epidemiologist and assistant professor at the University of Toronto, also said China’s claims are inconsistent.

“This does not sound credible at all,” he told Global News in an email.


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Furness said that while COVID-19’s ability to survive on paper depends in part on the roughness of the paper, it is unlikely that it will continue in an active state for more than a day or two.

“High friction with other documents in a postpose makes survival of even one day seem unlikely,” he explained.

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Dr. Horacio Bach, an expert in infectious diseases at the University of British Columbia, said that while Omicron is more transmissible, it spreads in the same way as previous variants – namely from person to person.

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The Canada Post says the WHO and the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) have provided public assurances that the risk of handling mail, including international mail, is low.

“According to PHAC, there is no known risk of coronavirus entering Canada on packages or packages,” it said in a statement on its website.

“Currently, there is no evidence that COVID-19 is transmitted by imported goods or packages.”

What is Canada’s answer?

At a news conference Monday, Federal Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos said the claim that a piece of Canadian mail introduced the Omicron variant to Beijing was “an extraordinary view.”

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He said that while he may have his own opinion on why China made that claim, he consulted with experts on how COVID-19 can be spread.

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“We will check with officials and our partners around the world,” Duclos said.

“I think it’s something new, but also exciting and certainly not in line with what we’ve done both internationally and nationally.”


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O’Toole says the claim that Canadian Post introduced Omicron to Beijing is ‘comic’


O’Toole says the claim that Canadian Post introduced Omicron to Beijing is ‘comic’

Conservative leader Erin O’Toole called it “comic.”

“Obviously, we are very concerned about variants within the pandemic, variants that have come from outside of Canada that we have to deal with here,” O’Toole said during a news conference Monday.

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“Stories like this remind us that from the beginning of the pandemic, some of the news and reporting from China was unreliable.”

– with files from the Canadian press, Reuters

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© 2022 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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