Chinese city tests live fish, crabs and shrimp using Covid swab kits

·3-min read

A coastal city in China has ordered swab tests of Covid not only on the fishermen but also on their catch of live seafood, including fish, crabs and shrimps.

In keeping with the country’s commitment to zero Covid strategy, officials in Xiamen - a popular tourist destination in China’s southeast coastal province of Fujian - said fish catches “must be tested” with nucleic acid testing as well, similar to all people in the city.

According to an official of the Xiamen Municipal Oceanic Development Bureau, it was necessary to swab test both fishermen and their “harvest” immediately after their arrival on the shore each day, reported the South China Morning Post.

“We test humans as well as what they caught at the same time – sample tests for the same batch of seafood,” an official said on Thursday.

Visuals of medical workers wearing hazmat suits and collecting samples from the mouths of live fishes for Covid tests were telecasted on news channels and went viral on social media on Wednesday.

TV reports of workers testing fish and swabbing the underside of crabs as well as shrimp became a subject of ridicule from several people on social media, who called out the authorities for lacking logic and for taking Covid zero strategy to the level of “insanity”.

“I thought fish didn’t have any lungs?” a viral comment on the Chinese social media site Weibo read. Another said that the orders suggested that Covid “doesn’t affect the lungs but the brain instead”.

The tests for marine animals were ordered after some from the fishing community were found making illegal trades or contacts with overseas vessels while at sea, resulting in the “import of coronavirus” from foreign countries, according to Xiamen Jimei district’s political and legal committee.

Defending the move after criticism, officials said Xiamen is not the first Chinese city to order such tests.

“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,” an official said.

Hainan, an island province in the country’s southernmost region, is battling an Omicron-variant driven outbreak, reporting roughly 14,000 local cases since 1 August.

The provincial government said at a media conference that the outbreak was “very likely” a result of trade between local and foreign fishermen. The official newspaper of the island province Hainan Daily reported that the medical workers tested fish on boats as a lockdown was imposed on the entire island.

In March during the worst Covid outbreak in Shanghai, medical workers carried out swab tests in the seafood markets.

PCR tests have also been conducted on a variety of animals such as chickens and cats across China to strictly adhere to the country’s zero Covid, a policy that has been opposed by many citizens.