- Canada’s health minister called a claim that Omicron could be spread through mail “extraordinary.”
- China said a Beijing resident was infected with Omicron after they handled a document sent from Canada.
- The country is now disinfecting international packages and told citizens to order less overseas mail.
On Monday, Canadian Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos responded to an allegation from China that the Omicron variant could have been passed to a Beijing office worker via mail from Canada, calling it an “extraordinary view.”
Earlier that day, the Beijing Center for Disease Control and Prevention said a resident had been infected with Omicron after handling a 22-page document sent from Canada. Beijing’s CDC added that the “possibility of contracting the virus through foreign items cannot be ruled out.” The document, officials said, was sent on January 7 and received on January 11.
Duclos stopped short of denying the claim, saying he would first hear the advice of experts in Canada’s public health agency.
“I find this to be an extraordinary view,” he told reporters when asked about Beijing’s investigation into the mailed package. “But again, I am not an expert doctor or a biologist, and I will ask the right people to provide, to produce the right advice.”
China’s strict Covid-zero policy has been strained in recent months as it battles fresh outbreaks coupled with locally-transmitted Omicron cases in its biggest cities, and Xi Jinping’s administration is taking no chances ahead of the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics. Authorities have instructed Chinese people to handle international mail outdoors and with gloves, and order fewer overseas packages.
China Post also told its workers to disinfect international packages and mandated that they get booster shots for COVID-19, AFP reported.
The World Health Organization and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have long said that the risk of being infected with COVID-19 through once-contaminated surfaces like glass, stainless steel, wood, cloth, and plastic is low after several days.
A previous version of this article reported that the Beijing office worker infected with Omicron is a man. The infected worker has been identified as a woman. We apologize for the error.