China Believes That Omicron Variant Found Its Way to the Country via Mail

The country asks its residents to open their mail with masks and gloves on.
Ameya Paleja
Beijing wants to avoid an Omicron surgeAndreyPopov/iStock

Authorities in Beijing are telling the 23 million residents of the city to stop ordering items from abroad after the city reported its first case of the Omicron variant, the BBC reported. The woman who was infected with the Omicron variant has no travel history, the authorities claimed. 

The Omicron variant has been behind the recent surge of infections across the world. Earlier this month, the U.S. reported a million cases in a day and the daily case numbers have remained near that figure ever since. With the Winter Olympics coming up shortly in Beijing, the focus is back on China, where the virus was first reported over two years ago. 

Chinese authorities have already decided that the general public will not be sold tickets at the Games but the detection of the first Omicron case weeks before the grand event will raise alarm bells. BBC reported that China follows a "dynamic zero COVID" policy which includes mass vaccinations, constant testing, and tracking people's movements using smartphones to stay on top of outbreaks. In November last year, city officials in Shanghai had tested 33,000 people after one case of COVID was reported in Disneyland.  

Health authorities launched a detailed investigation into the cause of infection with Omicron in the patient and found that letters in her possession carried traces of the variant. The mail was sent from Canada and traveled through Hong Kong before being delivered to the woman, Business Insider reported.

Another media outlet claimed that none of the 69 close contacts and 810 environmental samples collected from the woman were positive but 22 samples taken from the international mail, including unopened letters, had traces of the COVID-19. On its website, the Canadian Post says that there is no risk of contracting the virus from packages since it does not survive on packages for very long. 

Nevertheless, city officials in Beijing have recommended the city's residents to avoid international mail and to open it outdoors with gloves and mask on, Business Insider reported. BBC Correspondent, Robin Brant also confirmed this on Twitter. 

Official numbers from China suggest that daily infections are in a few hundred since March of last year. 

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