The State Post Bureau of China announced on Tuesday that it would pass all international mail entering the country through four rounds of “disinfection” to prevent the spread of Chinese coronavirus, despite most mainstream scientists agreeing that touching infected surfaces is not a main form of coronavirus transmission.
The announcement followed Communist Party confirmation this week that a person has tested positive for the omicron variant of Chinese coronavirus in Beijing, the national capital set to begin hosting the 2022 Winter Olympics on February 4. Uncontrolled coronavirus infections have spread to at least ten provinces in the country, the state-run Global Times reported this week, and at least two major cities – Xi’an and Tianjin – remain under lockdown.
Authorities put Xi’an’s 13 million residents under lockdown on December 23, admitting widespread coronavirus injections in the city. Tianjin’s 15 million went under lockdown this month, though the Communist Party made some exceptions in that situation due to Tianjin’s extraordinary status as one of the country’s, and the world’s, most important shipping ports.
China has been battling an uncontrolled coronavirus outbreak since October that authorities admitted they had traced back to a tour group from Shanghai that had toured Inner Mongolia. Despite not finding evidence of a foreign source for the virus and the first cases in the outbreak being Chinese citizens who had not traveled internationally, the Communist Party blamed inanimate objects imported to Inner Mongolia’s ports for beginning that outbreak. The Communist Party had encouraged travel in early October to celebrate the anniversary of the founding of the Party, a phenomenon it refers to as “red tourism,” but neither Chinese media nor public health officials tied government promotion of travel to the spread of the contagious disease.
Chinese officials have spent much of the past year arguing that fomite transmission – or infection of coronavirus through touching contaminated objects – is largely responsible for spreading Chinese coronavirus because the pathogen, which originated in Wuhan, China, is not Chinese. The “disinfection” display of the mail is an extension of this thesis.
“At least four rounds of disinfection will be carried out for international mail upon their arrival in China to prevent [Chinese coroanvirus] transmission from overseas, an official from the State Post Bureau of China said on Tuesday,” according to the government propaganda newspaper Global Times.
“Upon their arrival, all containers will be disinfected by the airport in the first place … after customs clearance, express delivery companies will open the mailbags and disinfect them one by one,” the newspaper detailed. “At express delivery network sites, working staff will complete another round of disinfection.”
“This means at least four rounds of disinfection will be done,” it reported, quoting a State Post official.
The Global Times published dramatic images of uniformed postal workers clad in masks, face shields, and sporting backpacks full of disinfectant attacking a conveyor belt of mail.
Strict disinfection will be carried out for intl mail upon arrival to prevent #COVID19 transmission from overseas, an official from the State Post Bureau of China said Tue. Several cases found were suspected of being infected by overseas mails. https://t.co/yRZg7U71Gt
— Global Times (@globaltimesnews) January 19, 2022
The images appeared similar to scenes out of Xi’an in December, when officials ordered residents to close their windows and doors and flooded the streets of the metropolis with chemical disinfectants, a spectacle that many public health experts dismissed as unnecessary given that contact with surfaces is not a significant driver of coronavirus infections.
A growing body of medical literature suggests that Chinese coronavirus infection through contact with contaminated surfaces is, at worst, “low,” as the pathogen infects people most often through contact with respiratory droplets ejected by an infected person and, in some cases, suspended in the air.
The virus spreads through “exposure to infectious respiratory fluids,” the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) explained in a brief published in May. “Inhalation of air carrying very small fine droplets and aerosol particles that contain infectious virus. Risk of transmission is greatest within three to six feet of an infectious source where the concentration of these very fine droplets and particles is greatest.”
In contrast, the CDC states, “the relative risk of fomite transmission of SARS-CoV-2 [Chinese coronavirus] is considered low compared with direct contact, droplet transmission, or airborne transmission.”
“Because of the many factors affecting the efficiency of environmental transmission, There have been few reports of COVID-19 cases potentially attributed to fomite transmission,” the agency asserted on it site.
Hackensack Meridian Health explained the discovery of “airborne transmission” of the virus in 2020, announced late in the year by the CDC.
“Some respiratory droplets are so small, they may hang in the air for minutes or hours, rather than falling to the ground,” the hospital and clinic network explains on its website. “These droplets, which are sometimes called aerosols, are typically found in indoor spaces with poor ventilation.”
A more recent study published last month in CDC peer-reviewed journal Emerging Infectious Diseases, studying a case of infections in a hotel in Hong Kong, found a highly likely case of “airborne transmission” in a quarantine scenario where individuals did not have in-person contact but appear to have contaminated each other through air droplets hanging in a shared corridor.
China has a history of devastatingly inaccurate speculation regarding the infectious nature of Chinese coronavirus. For weeks at the onset of the initial outbreak in Wuhan, Chinese officials insisted that the virus was not contagious at all. The World Health Organization repeated this assertion to the world.
Preliminary investigations conducted by the Chinese authorities have found no clear evidence of human-to-human transmission of the novel #coronavirus (2019-nCoV) identified in #Wuhan, #China🇳. pic.twitter.com/Fnl5P877VG
— World Health Organization (WHO) (@WHO) January 14, 2020
The theory that coronavirus spreads through the mail has prompted Communist Party agencies to discourage citizens from ordering products from abroad.
“In a notice released on Monday, the State Post Bureau of China suggested that people should reduce mail and express delivery of goods from countries and regions with a high risk of [Chinese coronavirus] in order to prevent transmission of the virus through international mail,” the Global Times reported Tuesday. “A Beijing health official also called for reducing purchases of imported goods via cross-border e-commerce platforms.”