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2022-08-18 09:58:43

Give a man a fish, he eats for a day. Teach him to test fish for COVID-19…

“It’s time for old Croakey’s nucleic acid test. Open your mouth,” says a fisherman from Xiamen to the yellow croaker he just caught, in a viral video clip.

In the clip, a medical worker inserts a cotton swab into the mouth of a live fish and then scrubs the surface of crabs to test them for COVID-19.

It sounds like a comedy sketch, but local authorities confirm that they’re testing fish for the virus. An employee from the Xiamen Municipal Bureau of Ocean Development confirmed the news to Sixth Tone Thursday. He said that performing COVID-19 tests on seafood is a common practice, especially since an outbreak of the virus in the island province of Hainan.

                                              A fish receives a COVID-19 test at a port in Xiamen, Fujian province, Aug. 16, 2022. From @台海网 on Weibo

A fish receives a COVID-19 test at a port in Xiamen, Fujian province, Aug. 16, 2022. From @台海网 on Weibo

The video, widely circulated on Chinese social media, has reignited online discussions about how much COVID-19 testing is too much. The coronavirus virant ravaging Hainan could be traced to Vietnam, gene sequencing conducted by the government shows. The regional outbreak in Hainan might be caused by illegal trade between Chinese and Vietnamese fishermen, according to a government briefing.

COVID control authorities in Xiamen’s Jimei District require fishermen to take COVID-19 tests after returning from sea, according to guidelines released July 22. The regulator said the move and other safety measures aim to avoid regional COVID-19 outbreaks caused by “illegal trade and contact with foreign ships.”

China has tested imported frozen food and airmail for the virus since two outbreaks in Beijing were traced by local authorities to a piece of salmon and a letter from abroad.

Experts from the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention said in an interview with state television in July that fish do not get infected by COVID-19, but can be contaminated with it during the catch, transportation, or processing. Such contamination is usually on the surface of the fish.

Chinese netizens had mixed reactions. “Maybe a test on fish skin instead of the throat would work,” said a popular comment on the Twitter-like platform Weibo.

Some said it’s a “waste of resources” and ridiculed the decision. “I’m afraid the bee in my house would sting me, so I burn the house down,” commented another Weibo user with the handle Duoduo Mimi.

“Shall we give the fish a green code after it’s tested negative? Or does it have to take another test one week later if it’s not sold?” asked another Weibo user.

Xiamen reported 10 COVID-19 cases in humans on Wednesday, and zero in fish.

Editor: David Cohen.

(Header image: A fish receives a COVID-19 test at a port in Xiamen, Fujian province, Aug. 16, 2022. From @台海网 on Weibo)