China has been beset by a series of COVID-19 outbreaks as it struggles to rid its lands of the virus completely, and now it’s questioning if a document sent from Canada is the source of an Omicron outbreak in Beijing.
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Chinese social media users are supporting a claim that Beijing received Omicron through a package from Canada.
Some have even gone as far as to say that Canada “deliberately poisoned” the document.
The claim comes as China named Canada its least favorite country in a public poll.
As China wrestles with its recent series of COVID-19 outbreaks, Beijing has thrown a new allegation into the mix — that remains of the virus on a postal package from Canada could be the source of its Omicron outbreak in the capital.
But while Canada has signaled doubt over the science behind that claim, social media users on the Chinese platform Weibo are latching onto a new narrative, which posits Canada intentionally sent the package as “poison.”
“It’s reasonable to suspect that someone poisoned this deliberately. Definitely have to be alert toward international mail,” said one Weibo user in the comments section of a viral post on the incident that now has more than 50 million views. “The people of certain countries, the blackness in their hearts is powerful!”
“Poisoning from a thousand miles,” said another comment on a Chinese media report about the mailed document.
“At every turn, it’s the responsibility of a foreign country,” another user wrote.
On Monday, China said a man in Beijing tested positive for the Omicron variant after handling a 22-page document sent from Canada on January 7th. While the man only touched the outside of the package, traces of the variant were found inside its pages, officials said.
The Beijing CDC further said that it tested 54 packages sent from “the same source” and found five of them had traces of the Omicron variant. The CDC declined to identify the source.
The accusation comes as China’s opinion of Canada hit a new low.
According to a 2021 survey by state media outlet Global Times, Canada is China’s least favorite country. China once sent around three-quarters of a million tourists to Canada each year, but tensions between the countries have escalated since 2018, after their governments sparred over Canada’s detaining of Huawei Chief Financial Officer Meng Wanzhou. Canada detained and arrested Meng on suspicion of violating US trade sanctions.
The idea of the coronavirus being sent to China is a familiar talking point on social media. China has often seized opportunities to direct blame for the spread of the virus away from itself.
Some Chinese scientists have promoted a “cold chain theory,” which suggests the coronavirus first arrived in China through imported frozen food, though there is no evidence to support this.
In November, local media pointed to traces of the virus on frozen food imports as the source of an outbreak in the port city of Dalian, and the country has started testing its cold chain supply for the coronavirus.
Global health experts have said the probability of getting infected by handling once-contaminated cold chain products is “very low.” 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.
However, authorities have instructed Chinese people to handle international mail outdoors and with gloves, and order fewer overseas packages.
On Monday, China Post also instructed its workers to disinfect international packages and get booster vaccine shots, AFP reported.
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