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Omicron scare: Do not order items from abroad, China warns citizens

Chinese health authorities have urged citizens not to order items from overseas after the first case of Omicron infection in Beijing, and a secondary case related to the first, were linked to a parcel from Canada.

Health authorities said parcels from abroad could be potentially contaminated with the virus, a new warning issued days ahead of the Winter Olympics scheduled to begin from February 4 in Beijing and neighbouring Hebei province.

Residents are being urged to wear masks and gloves when opening parcels from abroad.

The person hadn’t left Beijing two weeks before testing positive last week but occasionally handled international mail at work, the Beijing Municipal Health Commission said.

Samples taken from the package and some documents inside the mail and handled by the first patient tested positive for the virus.

Genetic sequencing shows the variant detected in the patient is different from Omicron-infected patients elsewhere in China but bears “high similarity” to infected travellers from North America and Singapore.

Beijing health authorities said the findings mean they cannot rule out the possibility of the person getting infected through overseas parcels.

On Tuesday, Beijing reported another new locally-transmitted Covid-19 case for Monday; the second case is confirmed to be a close contact of the first Omicron case in Beijing, the national health commission (NHC) said.

The new patient was under medical observation in quarantine on Saturday and tested positive for Covid-19 on Monday.

“Virologists warned of the high risk of packages from overseas causing domestic Covid-19 flare-ups, when the epidemic overseas is running high, as contaminated packages from epidemic-rampant countries may spread the virus to people with weak immunity through viral particles floating in the air, or people without proper protective gear,” the state-run Global Times reported.

The report added that a patient from Shenzhen in southern China, confirmed to be infected with Omicron on Sunday, is likely to have contracted it after being exposed to contaminated goods from overseas.

The Chinese mainland on Monday reported 127 new locally transmitted Covid-19 cases, the NHC said in its daily report on Tuesday.

Of the new local cases, 102 were reported in Henan, 18 in Tianjin, five in Guangdong, and one each in Beijing and Shaanxi, the commission said.

The total number of confirmed Covid-19 cases on the mainland had reached 105,258 by Monday since the pandemic began while the death toll stood 4,636.

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