The customs authority in China said on Friday, July 10 that it was suspending imports from three shrimp producers in Ecuador after detecting novel Coronavirus in recent shipments.

The authorities said after examining the samples taken from the packaging of Industrial Pesquera Santa Priscila SA, Empacreci SA, and Empacadora Del Pacifico Sociedad Anonima Edpacif they have found six positive results. But the tests on samples from inside the packaging and the shrimp itself came out negative.

Shrimps
Import of Shrimps Pixabay

Earlier the Chief Epidemiologist of China's Center for Diseases Prevention and Control, Wu Zunyou told the state media that the virus can survive on the surface of frozen food for up to three months. He explained that his agency "highly suspects" contaminated goods were the source of the latest outbreak in Beijing.

Imported Shrimps Brought Coronavirus Again

This new finding was the first positive result announced by Beijing since the authorities started testing imported foods for the Coronavirus. They started the testing procedure soon after the virus was found on a chopping board used to cut salmon at the food market in the Chinese capital.

The General Administration of Customs said in a statement on its website, after nucleic acid sequence analysis and expert judgment, the test results clearly suggested that the container environment and the outer packaging of the goods of the three companies were at risk of contamination by the SARS-CoV-2, and "the companies' food safety management system was not in order."

Even though the World Health Organization (WHO) earlier claimed that "there have not been any reports of transmission of SARS-CoV-2 virus through food," many Chinese buyers have stopped imports of salmon and the fish has been removed from supermarket shelves.

Bi Kexin, in charge of food imports at the customs authority, told reporters that it has taken a total of 227,934 samples to date, including from the environmental samples, food products, and their packaging. The positive results for the Coronavirus were picked up on July 3 from cargoes at Dalian and Xiamen ports. As per Gorjan Nikolik, seafood analyst at Rabobank, the product had spent at least a month frozen in the container before reaching China.

Novel Coronavirus in Ecuador

Ecuador is the world's second-largest shrimp exporter and the top supplier to China, as it ships about 70 percent of its product. Ivan Ontaneda, Ecuador's minister of production and foreign trade who also oversees the fishing industry said shrimp producers in the country follow strict biosecurity protocols. "This is not a sanction against the product, it is not a sanction against Ecuadorean shrimp, nor is it a sanction against the country," he noted.

Despite the clarification given by the Ecuador minister, the Coronavirus effect in the country can not be overlooked. Currently, as per the data, the country has reported 65,018 cases of COVID-19. In June, reports revealed that after the outbreak in the South American country, the health system of Ecuador has collapsed.

As per health workers, in one hospital in the port city Guayaquil overwhelmed by COVID-19 patients, staff have had to pile up bodies in bathrooms because the morgues are full, health workers say. In early April, the province of Guayas, whose capital is Guayaquil, had recorded 6,700 deaths, which is more than three times the monthly average.

Reports claimed that there is no clarity about the death toll in Ecuador's first coronavirus hotspot, where many people were believed to have died as they were unable to get proper treatment owing to the city's collapsed healthcare system.