China Blames Packages From U.S., Canada, as Reason for COVID Spread

Chinese health authorities say international packages from the United States and Canada may be responsible for spreading the COVID-19 Omicron variant in parts of China, including Beijing.

Chinese officials say Beijing's first case of the COVID-19 Omicron variant may be linked to a package received from Canada, however health experts are skeptical, the CBC reported.

The Beijing Center for Disease Control and virologists said the recent cases stemmed from packages shipped abroad. The Global Times, a Communist Party newspaper, said Tuesday people who were recently infected had received packages from the United States and Canada, the Associated Press reported.

Health authorities claimed a resident in Beijing was exposed to the Omicron variant after picking up a piece of mail they received from Canada. State media reported the resident's package was responsible for the new infection on January 7 after it passed through Hong Kong from Canada, The Global and Mail reported.

Global health experts disagree with China's reasoning for the COVID-19 infection. The World Health Organization said COVID-19 cannot multiply on surfaces like mail or food packages. The viruses "need a live animal or human host to multiply and survive," the AP reported.

The AP reported that experts say the virus is mainly spread by respiratory droplets of infected people's so when they breathe, sneeze, cough or speak.

Pang Xinghuo, the deputy director of the Beijing Center for Disease Control, said health officials "cannot rule out the possibility" that the person was infected by the package from abroad containing the virus, the CBC reported.

Chinese officials said they're increasing testing on shipments from overseas, including frozen food, after trace amounts of the virus were found on packages. According to the AP, Chinese authorities emphasized the danger of international packages despite the limited trace of the virus found.

"While mail may be contaminated, the risk of COVID-19 infection when handling paper mail or cardboard packages, including international mail, is extremely low," the Public Health Agency of Canada said in an email statement to the CBC.

Chinese health authorities advised residents to wear gloves and face masks plus not to open international packages indoors. Officials urged residents not to order packages requiring international shipment to help reduce the risk of COVID-19 exposure ahead of the Winter Olympics, U.S. News reported.

China is cracking down on its strict zero-tolerance COVID-19 policy ahead of the Winter Olympics, which are set to begin in just a couple of weeks.

Organizers for the game's recently announced event tickets will no longer be sold to the general public after a surge of COVID-19 cases. Only "targeted groups of people" will have access to tickets due to the rise of infections. Local residents who attend the game must follow strict COVID-19 policies, Reuters reported.

Packages Blamed for China COVID-19 Infections
Chinese officials say an international package from Canada may be responsible for Beijing's first reported case of the Omicron variant. STR/AFP/Getty Images