Chinese port city quarantines hundreds after two sea workers test positive for coronavirus

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A major port city in eastern China has struggled to quarantine more than 300 residents after two handlers working for a seafood importer tested positive for the coronavirus, raising fears of a new COVID outbreak -19 imminent in the country.

Health officials in Qingdao, a city of more than 9 million people, reported two new asymptomatic cases on Thursday – two male workers, aged 40 and 45, responsible for unloading imported goods at the port.

Officials did not say how the patients contracted the virus, but suggested they had both been exposed to imported frozen seafood.

The new infections are the first domestic cases of COVID-19 detected by China more than a month after authorities recorded only imported cases from inbound travelers.

A major port city in eastern China has sought to quarantine more than 300 residents after two stevedores working for a seafood importer tested positive for the coronavirus. File photo shows workers spraying disinfectant at a company in Qingdao on February 3

Health officials in Qingdao, a city of more than 9 million people, reported two new asymptomatic cases on Thursday - two male workers, aged 40 and 45, responsible for unloading frozen seafood at the port. In this photo, a barge pushes a container ship to the Qingdao shipyard

Health officials in Qingdao, a city of more than 9 million people, on Thursday reported two new asymptomatic cases – two male workers, aged 40 and 45, responsible for unloading frozen seafood at the port. In this photo, a barge pushes a container ship to the Qingdao shipyard

Thursday’s results came during a routine test of company personnel, the Qingdao Municipal Health Commission said in a statement.

A total of 360 close contacts of the affected men have been quarantined and tested for the virus. 127 of them have tested negative while the rest of the results are being examined by labs, authorities said.

Officials also discovered coronavirus contamination on some packages stored by the seafood company.

The importer’s products and facilities generated 51 positive test results, but no contaminated product was marketed, the commission said, without identifying the items or their origins.

The affected employees, Mr. Dong and Mr. Chen, both tested negative on September 8 during routine screening.

They both worked on the evening of September 19, unloading imported seafood at the port.

The importer's products and facilities generated 51 positive test results, but no contaminated product was marketed, the commission said, without identifying the items or their origins. File photo: A staff member is seen working at a port in east China's Qingdao on July 2

The importer’s products and facilities generated 51 positive test results, but no contaminated product was marketed, the commission said, without identifying the items or their origins. File photo: A staff member is seen working at a port in east China’s Qingdao on July 2

Chinese officials did not say how workers contracted the virus, but said they were `` sharing the common exposure '', referring to imported seafood. A residential area is pictured being disinfected by Red Cross volunteers from the west coast of Qingdao on January 28

Chinese officials did not say how workers contracted the virus, but said they “shared the common exposure”, referring to imported seafood. A residential area is pictured being disinfected by Red Cross volunteers from the west coast of Qingdao on January 28

On September 24, the Qingdao CDC reported that the two men had tested positive for the coronavirus but did not show any symptoms.

The patients were quarantined at a designated hospital while under treatment, the statement said.

Chinese officials did not say how workers contracted the virus, but said they “shared the common exposure,” referring to imported seafood.

All areas where patients had visited are being disinfected, the statement said. All residents living in these neighborhoods are also tested for contagion.

China appears to have largely contained the virus outbreak, as the country has gone more than a month without new cases of domestic infection.

Earlier this month, Chinese leader Xi Jinping touted China’s role in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic at a triumphant awards ceremony for medical professionals, decorated with bugle calls and applause.

He told the audience that China had acted “openly and transparently” in the face of contagion while “passing an extraordinary and historic test.”

The resurgence in Qingdao is not the first time in recent months that overseas frozen products have been linked to the spread of the coronavirus. In this file photo, a worker retrieves a swab from frozen fish in Guizhou on July 1

The resurgence in Qingdao is not the first time in recent months that overseas frozen products have been linked to the spread of the coronavirus. In this file photo, a worker retrieves a swab from frozen fish in Guizhou on July 1

But the new cases in Qingdao are not the first time in recent months when overseas frozen goods have been linked to the spread of the coronavirus.

Authorities in Beijing and Dalian have linked their local outbreaks to imported food products.

China has stepped up controls on frozen food imports and banned those on some foreign meat processing plants amid the global pandemic.

Chinese customs have threatened to suspend imports for a week from companies whose frozen food products test positive for the virus, with violators for the third time facing four weeks.

Heavy traces of the virus were found in the meat and seafood sections of a market in the capital Beijing which was the site of an epidemic in June.

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