Dr. Eric Feigel Ding, an epidemiologist formerly on the faculty of Harvard Medical School and Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health recently posted on twitter a document from the Chinese Center for Disease Control, published in January, which suggests that the most recent outbreak of a new Omicron sub-variant may have been introduced in the Beijing area via postal mail from Canada.
Here’s Dr. Ding’s tweet:
📬MAIL DELIVERY OUTBREAK—China’s CDC reports an outbreak of #Omicron “likely caused” by an international postal letter. Genetically distinct from other cases, but linked to SE Asia & N America. If true—this is the first outbreak cluster spread such way.🧵https://t.co/FSBcGj847t pic.twitter.com/EL2m1OICZG
— Eric Feigl-Ding (@DrEricDing) March 12, 2022
The South China Morning Post reported on the incident on January 17, while also pointing out that:
China has repeatedly touted the idea that it is possible to be infected with the coronavirus by touching contaminated objects, particularly via the cold chain.
Its health officials have also suggested repeatedly that the cold chain may have brought the coronavirus to Wuhan in late 2019 in the first place, and have urged studies to be carried out internationally.
However, the theory has been dismissed by most scientists in other countries as highly unlikely. Although samples taken from the surface of an object can test positive, they may not be infectious, because they may be dead traces of the coronavirus. Even if a sample can infect living cells in a laboratory, it takes a certain viral load to infect a person.
In Canada, the Globe and Mail reported that:
A claim by Chinese health authorities that the Omicron variant of COVID-19 was introduced to a resident of Beijing through a piece of regular mail from Canada was dismissed Monday as being ludicrous and comical.
Margaret McCuaig-Johnston, a China expert at the University of Ottawa who spent more than three decades in the federal public service working on China issues, said Chinese officials need to familiarize themselves with the latest scientific material on the spread of COVID-19.
“Unlike the early days, scientists have clarified that it does not stay on surfaces. To suggest that it would be on mail that came over days from Canada is ludicrous,” she said.