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2020-07-31 09:05:11

China’s top health authority has made coronavirus tests mandatory for individuals working at food markets amid rising infections in parts of the country.

In a guideline Thursday, the National Health Commission said that all farmers markets in the country will be “monitored” on a weekly or monthly basis depending on their size. Marketplaces selling meat and seafood, where live animals can often be purchased or slaughtered to order, have been back in the spotlight lately after a few coronavirus clusters were linked to such facilities.

Health authorities will collect samples from surfaces, workers’ clothes and hands, freezers, meat and seafood, sewage, bathrooms, and garbage trucks at the markets and test them within 24 hours, the guideline said. In addition, aerosol samples from poorly ventilated places within the markets, such as enclosed offices, will also be sent for testing.

Samples from large-scale farmers markets — especially those selling frozen or refrigerated meat and seafood — or markets with confined, humid spaces will be collected and tested once a week, according to the guideline. Meanwhile, smaller marketplaces will undergo the same process on a monthly basis.

The new rule comes amid growing numbers of local coronavirus infections in several parts of China, including the northwestern Xinjiang region and the northeastern city of Dalian. As of Thursday, Dalian had reported 68 confirmed cases since July 22, mostly among employees of Dalian Kaiyang Seafood Company or their close contacts, while Xinjiang has reported 523 confirmed coronavirus infections since a fresh outbreak was detected July 16.

Chinese authorities have been hyper-vigilant about possible viral outbreaks at farmers markets since a coronavirus cluster in Beijing was traced to Xinfadi, the country’s largest farmers market, in early June. The outbreak in the Chinese capital was quickly contained, though infections from Dalian were reported there this week.

Last month, Chinese customs authorities began testing imported meat after the coronavirus was detected on a chopping board reportedly used for salmon at Xifandi market in Beijing. The same month, Shanghai also started conducting nucleic acid tests on the fresh meat, seafood, and surfaces of local supermarkets and produce wholesalers.

Editor: Bibek Bhandari.

(Header image: A farmers market in Lianyungang, Jiangsu province, July 9, 2020. Geng Yuhe/People Visual)