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A video of medical workers swab-testing live fish sparks renewed debate about how far is too far under China’s zero-Covid strategy. Photo: SCMP artwork

Coronavirus: bizarre clip of medical workers testing live seafood widely ridiculed for insane extent of China’s dynamic zero-Covid rule

  • A Chinese port city has ordered PCR tests on live seafood including fish, crabs and shrimp amid fears they are the source of a new Covid outbreak
  • PCR tests have been conducted on a variety of animals including chickens and cats across China over the past couple of years
Coastal cities in China have begun testing live seafood as part of the latest efforts to prevent the spread of the contagious Omicron coronavirus variant under the government’s dynamic zero-Covid strategy.

Xiamen, the famous tourist city located in China’s southeastern coastal province of Fujian, has ordered PCR tests for both fishermen and their harvests after they return from the sea, according to the city’s fishery supervisor.

“We test humans as well as what they caught at the same time – sample tests for the same batch of seafood,” a staff member of the Xiamen Municipal Oceanic Development Bureau told the South China Morning Post on Thursday.


Live seafood ‘tested’ for Covid-19 in China

Live seafood ‘tested’ for Covid-19 in China

“We’re not the only place doing this. We took the lesson from Hainan, which is witnessing a serious outbreak. It’s said that it may be triggered by marine product transactions between local fishermen and their overseas counterparts,” he said.

Over the weekend, the Hainan Daily, the official newspaper of the southern island province of Hainan, reported that medical workers in its Danzhou city swabbed fish on fishing boats as the city went into an entire lockdown after new infections were detected in Sanya at the beginning of August and have since spread to the whole island.

A video circulating online shows workers in white hazmat suits inserting a cotton bud into the mouth of a fish, and rubbing buds along the bodies of crabs and shrimps. Photo: Toutiao
As of Wednesday, the province had reported roughly 14,000 local cases since August 1, including about 8,000 who were asymptomatic. It was driven by an Omicron subvariant first discovered in China, which had “very likely” been imported via seafood transactions between local and foreign fishermen, the provincial government said at a media conference on August 4.

At that time, Xiamen had reported just 56 local cases.

A video of medical workers from the city collecting samples from live seafood for Covid-19 tests went viral on social media and was widely ridiculed by online users on Wednesday.

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In the video, workers wearing full white hazmat suits and white gloves are seen inserting a cotton bud into the mouth of a fish, and rubbing the body with the buds when swabbing crabs and shrimp.

The same operation was carried out in seafood markets in Shanghai in late March during its worst Covid-19 outbreak that led to a traumatic two-month lockdown later.

Apart from aquatic products, PCR tests have been conducted on a variety of animals including chickens and cats across China over the past couple of years.

Officials said their main concern is that transmission is occurring during interactions between fishermen at sea and seafood catches. Photo: Toutiao

Chinese health officials have frequently tied imported cases to food and mail.

However, last month, the State Council said the latest research showed the coronavirus will die on most surfaces within one day and ordered to stop testing imported goods transported at a temperature above 10 degrees Celsius.