Coronavirus in Frozen Food: WHO downplays infection risk | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, August 15, 2020 / LAST MODIFIED: 02:10 AM, August 15, 2020

Coronavirus in Frozen Food: WHO downplays infection risk

Urges people not to panic

The World Health Organization (WHO) has urged people not to fear catching the novel coronavirus from food, after Chinese testers found traces on food and food packaging.

Two cities in China on Thursday found the virus in frozen chicken wings imported from Brazil and shrimp from Ecuador, raising public concern.

Chinese shoppers yesterday expressed dismay at the news, with some saying they would avoid the products.

The Philippines imposed a temporary ban on poultry meat imports from Brazil yesterday, including chicken wings from the South American country.

However, the WHO said there was no need to panic -- and there were no examples of the respiratory disease being transmitted through food.

"People are already scared enough and fearful enough in the Covid pandemic," WHO emergencies director Michael Ryan told a virtual press conference in Geneva on Thursday.

"People should not fear food or food packaging or the processing or delivery of food. There is no evidence that food or the food chain is participating in the transmission of this virus.

"Our food, from a Covid perspective, is safe."

Maria Van Kerkhove, the WHO's Covid-19 technical lead, said the United Nations health agency was aware of the reports and understood that China was looking for the virus on food packaging.

"They've tested a few hundred thousand samples of looking at packaging and have found very, very few, less than 10 positive in doing that," she said.

"We know that the virus can remain on surfaces for some time.

"If the virus is actually in food -- and we have no examples of where this virus has been transmitted as a food-borne, whereas someone has consumed a food product -- the viruses can be killed, like other viruses as well, if the meat is cooked."

SHARED VACCINE SEARCH

Meanwhile, WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus on Thursday urged countries to invest billions of dollars in searching for Covid-19 vaccines and treatments -- calling it a snip compared to the vast economic cost of the coronavirus crisis.

The global health body insisted it was a smarter bet than the trillions of dollars being thrown at handling the consequences of the global pandemic.

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus pleaded for investment into the WHO-led ACT-Accelerator programme, which aims to share global research and development, manufacturing and procurement in a bid to beat Covid-19.

NZ EXTENDS CURB

In New Zealand, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern extended a lockdown in New Zealand's largest city yesterday, giving health authorities more time to trace and contain a strain of coronavirus previously unseen in the country.

Ardern said stay-at-home orders would remain in force across Auckland until August 26 in a bid to prevent a mystery outbreak from becoming a fully-blown second wave.

Genomic tests indicated the latest infections were not the same strain of coronavirus recorded in New Zealand earlier this year.

The pandemic has killed at least 759,000 people worldwide since surfacing in China late last year, according to a tally from official sources compiled by AFP yesterday.

In Britain, the government reimposed a 14-day quarantine for travellers arriving from France, prompting Paris to promise a "reciprocal measure". The Netherlands and Malta are also removed from the UK's list of countries exempted from quarantine.

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