Nov 27, 2020 08:07 PM

Zhang Wenhong: It’s Not Just Frozen Goods That Can Carry the Coronavirus

Zhang Wenhong.
Zhang Wenhong.

Zhang Wenhong is director of the infectious diseases department at Huashan Hospital in Shanghai.

On Thursday in Beijing, I attended a Covid-19 seminar organized by the National Natural Science Foundation of China.

At the seminar, professor Wu Zunyou, who worked at the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), shared data about the source of the outbreak in the city of Kashgar in the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region. In addition, I introduced Shanghai’s strategy for battling Covid-19.

It is worth mentioning that the local infections in Kashgar and Shanghai have been traced back to shipments that weren’t chilled or frozen, unlike the many cases linked to the cold chain. In Shanghai, the local CDC traced the city’s first locally transmitted case of Covid-19 to a shipping container.

At the conference, professor Bi Xinhui from the Institute of Geochemistry at the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) shared her research into how long the coronavirus could survive on the surface of a physical object. Experts at the conference provided control strategies to further prevent overseas epidemics from spreading through the international logistics system.

With the onset of winter, viruses spend notably longer periods of time on surfaces outside the human body. The virus can survive for a fairly long period of time at low temperatures — even 4 degrees Celsius. However, the virus won’t last as long once it is exposed to light and rising temperatures.

“Shanghai is also currently providing free voluntary emergency vaccinations to frontline cargo handlers, and also stepping up measures to enhance protection for frontline workers in an effort to eliminate the risk of imported infections.

Normally, if goods are stored in a dry and bright warehouse, the virus will be rendered harmless in a short period of time; but if they are stored in a cold and wet container, the virus can remain infectious for a while. In this situation, it poses a great risk to anyone who comes into physical contact with it.

To address these risks, we should strengthen the sterilization and disinfection of non-cold chain logistics in winter, and ensure proper handling of goods and containers in environments with lots of light and good ventilation. That will significantly reduce the risk of infections.

Shanghai is also currently providing free voluntary emergency vaccinations to frontline cargo handlers, and stepping up measures to enhance protection for frontline workers in an effort to eliminate the risk of imported infections.

Shanghai and other cities across China are becoming more and more experienced in containing and preventing the spread of Covid-19. It’s a “new normal” that improves the prospects for the economy in the future.

Ensuring success in fighting Covid-19 and maintaining socio-economic activities will be the next key task for our country going forward.

Translated by intern reporter Ju Yiwen.

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