Three Chinese cities have reported detecting coronavirus on imported frozen food over the span of four days, raising fresh concerns contaminated food shipments could lead to new outbreaks.
On Thursday, health officials in the southeastern city of Shenzhen said a surface sample of frozen chicken wings from Brazil has tested positive for the virus. The virus was detected as part of routine screenings being carried out on meat and seafood imports since June in the wake of an outbreak in Beijing linked to a major wholesale food market.
The Shenzhen Municipal Health Commission said in a statement it traced and tested everyone who may have come into contact with potentially contaminated food products, and all results were negative.
"All the citizens should be cautious in buying imported frozen meat products and aquatic products in recent days," the commission warned the city's 12 million residents.
The discovery comes a day after the virus was found on the packaging of the frozen shrimp imported from Ecuador during another routine inspection at a restaurant in the southeast city of Wuhu, health officials there reported.
On Monday, health officials in the port city of Yantai in eastern China said coronavirus was detected on the outer packaging of frozen seafood transported by a foreign ship. It was not clear where the food was imported from.
Last month, Chinese health officials have also reported coronavirus presence on imported frozen food packaging in the cities of Dalian, Xiamen and Pingxiang.
China reported 19 new cases on Thursday, the first time the number of new cases has dropped below 20 since a big spike of 127 cases on July 30, the highest since March 5.
So far, 84,756 cases were reported by Chinese health officials, including 4,634 deaths.
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World-wide, over 20 million cases have been confirmed, with more than half of them in the U.S., Brazil and India.
India, a nation of 1.3 billion whose sagging economy has been hit hard by the pandemic, reported a record daily rise in new cases Thursday, while the death toll surpassed 47,000, the fourth highest in the world.
Infections grew by 66,999 from a day earlier to reach a total of nearly 2.4 million to date, India’s health ministry said.
But Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted Tuesday that the country’s testing capacity has been significantly ramped up.
“India’s fatality rate is decreasing and we must keep working hard to ensure it goes below 1 percent,” he said.
Meanwhile, New Zealand, which saw no local transmission for three months, locked down its largest city of 1.7 million on Wednesday shortly after 4 people were confirmed to have the virus earlier this week. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern also re-imposed social distancing measures across the rest of the country.
The country's health officials reported 13 new community infections, all linked to the original 4 cases, on Thursday.
“Once again we are reminded of how tricky this virus is and how easily it can spread,” Ardern said in a televised address. “Going hard and early is still the best course of action.”
New Zealand has been praised for its large-scale testing and contact-tracing system that helped it bring the outbreak under control. It reported 1,239 confirmed cases and 22 deaths since the start of the pandemic, far lower than many other developed nations.
Reuters contributed to this report.