Beijing Blames Omicron Case on Mail From Canada

Claim is 'bewildering,' Canadian scientists say
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 17, 2022 3:35 PM CST
Beijing Blames Omicron Case on Mail From Canada
A woman walks past a clock counting down the time until the opening ceremony of the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing, Saturday, Jan. 15, 2022.   (AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein)

(Newser) – Beijing reported its first case of the omicron variant over the weekend and snap lockdowns soon followed. An office building was locked down with employees still inside after the 26-year-old woman tested positive, CNN reports. The residential complex where the woman lives has also been sealed off and a list of locations the woman visited over the last two weeks has been published in state media. The woman didn't leave Beijing in the weeks before she tested positive. There is an omicron outbreak in Tianjin, less than 30 miles away by train, but Beijing authorities say they believe there was no community transmission and the woman may instead have been infected by a letter or parcel she received from Canada earlier this month, reports the BBC.

Authorities say traces of the virus were found on the outside of the mail and on a sealed letter inside. They said it was mailed from Toronto on Jan. 7 and arrived in Beijing on Jan. 11 after passing through the US and Hong Kong. They have urged people to avoid getting deliveries from overseas. Authorities in Canada. however, say claims the virus survived on paper during the journey from Canada are "ludicrous" and "bewildering." "I would ask whether the 'officials' who claimed this have ruled out all other more plausible exposures to omicron," University of Saskatchewan epidemiologist Dr. Nazeem Muhajarine tells CTV.

With the Winter Olympics just three weeks away, authorities in Beijing tightened controls even further after the case was detected. Travel to the city was already tightly restricted, with dozens of flights suspended, the New York Times reports. Local transmission of omicron has now been detected in at least five of China's 34 provinces and administrative divisions, including Shanghai. Olympic organizers said Monday that to create a "pleasant environment" and control the pandemic, "the original plan of offering tickets to the general public has been altered toward spectators from selected groups," the AP reports. (Read more China stories.)

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