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People skate on a frozen river at Beijing Olympic Park on Thursday, Jan. 13, 2022.

People skate on a frozen river at Beijing Olympic Park on Thursday, Jan. 13, 2022. (Japan News-Yomiuri)

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China's capital found a Covid-19 cluster among cold chain workers on Wednesday, the latest sign the country is seeing more infections resulting from a controversial claim of transmission through contaminated goods.

Five people who worked at a cold chain storage facility in the Fangshan district of Beijing tested positive for Covid, with genetic sequencing showing three of them were infected by the delta variant, Beijing officials said at a briefing on Wednesday. The refrigeration facility also deals with imports, and the workers who tested positive hadn't left the city in the past two weeks, they added.

While authorities are still investigating the source of the infection, the cluster among cold chain workers adds to a growing body of cases linked to exposure to Covid-contaminated goods ranging from frozen seafood and fruits to international parcels. That has led Chinese health authorities to claim the virus could be transmitted to humans from tainted goods. They see it as a major risk for a flareup in a country that is just weeks away from the start of the Winter Olympic Games and a test of its outlier strategy to aggressively stamp out the pathogen in a world that is transitioning toward living with Covid.

Global health authorities have downplayed the likelihood of such transmission, with the World Health Organization and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention saying the chance of getting Covid from frozen foods is very low. In November, China warned the virus could be transmitted to other parcels, testing hundreds of packages of children's clothing after three workers at an apparel factory tested positive.

Beijing's recent flareup began with a person with no recent travel history testing positive for the omicron variant, after handling international mail sent from Canada. Samples taken from the parcel processed by the patient also tested positive, spurring authorities to advise residents against overseas purchases and to screen international parcels for the potential risk of virus spread.


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