People shouldn’t fear COVID spread in food packaging: WHO

WHO epidemiologist says China had tested hundreds of thousands of packages and “found very, very few” proving positive for the virus

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The World Health Organization (WHO) has said it saw no evidence of coronavirus being spread by food or packaging and urged people not to be afraid of the virus entering the food chain.

WHO epidemiologist Maria Van Kerkhove said China had tested hundreds of thousands of packages and “found very, very few, less than 10” proving positive for the virus.

Authorities in two cities of China said they had found traces of the coronavirus in imported frozen chicken wings from Brazil and on the outer packaging of frozen Ecuadorian shrimp, raising fears that contaminated food shipments might cause a new outbreak.

Brazil’s Agriculture Ministry said in a statement that it was seeking clarification on the Chinese findings. Ecuador’s production minister, Ivan Ontaneda, said that the country maintains strict protocols and cannot be held responsible for what happens to goods after they leave the country.


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“People should not fear food, or food packaging or processing or delivery of food,” WHO head of emergencies programme Mike Ryan told a briefing in Geneva. “There is no evidence that food or the food chain is participating in the transmission of this virus. And people should feel comfortable and safe.”

Instead, on the World Mental Health Day on August 27, WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said COVID-19 has impacted the mental health of millions of people, in terms of the anxiety and fear it has caused, and disruption to mental health services.

“People in long-term facilities such as care homes and psychiatric institutions are at increased risk of infection,” he said.

Mental health professionals have themselves been infected with the virus; and some mental health facilities have been closed to convert them into treatment facilities for people with COVID-19.

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