Norway says its salmon not source of Beijing virus outbreak
OSLO, Norway – Norway said Wednesday, June 17, that its salmon was not the source of the recently discovered outbreak of the new coronavirus in Beijing, after many Chinese restaurants and retailers stopped selling imports of the fish.
Norwegian salmon came under scrutiny in China after a recently discovered cluster of new coronavirus cases was reportedly traced to the Xinfadi meat market in Beijing and a chopping board used for cutting up imported salmon.
"The issue is being resolved. We're working out the details today," said fisheries minister Odd Emil Ingebrigtsen, quoted by TDN Finans.
Ingebrigtsen said Chinese and Norwegian officials had met on Tuesday, June 16, and concluded that Norwegian salmon was unlikely to be the source of the virus detected last week at the Beijing market.
At least 137 people have been infected since last week in China's capital, a resurgence of infections that has led to the lockdown of several neighborhoods and the cancellation of more than a thousand flights.
Major supermarket chains including Wumart and Carrefour removed all stocks of salmon in the capital, but said supplies of other products would not be affected, Beijing Daily reported Saturday, June 13.
Some Beijing restaurants were not serving any salmon last weekend, according to Agence France-Presse (AFP) reporters.
Contacted by AFP, the Chinese embassy in Oslo did not provide any immediate comment.
According to experts, salmon were most likely not the vector of the disease.
"I think it's unlikely," Bjorn Olav Kvamme, head of the disease and infection section at Norway's Institute of Marine Research, told AFP.
"I would think that the infection is not coming from salmon but rather from contamination of the product or tools by people," he added, but pointed to the absence of studies on the possible propagation of the virus by fish.
In China, the chief epidemiologist of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Wu Zunyou, said the discovery of the virus on a cutting board "is not enough to certify that it comes from imported seafood."
"It could have come from an infected person," he said on Chinese television.
China, considered a very promising market by the industry, last year imported around 23,500 tonnes of Norwegian salmon.
Shares in salmon producers, who have previously suffered from the diplomatic spat between Beijing and Oslo over the award of the Nobel Peace Prize to Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo in 2010, were boosted by the latest news.
Shares in Mowi, the world's leading salmon producer, were up by 3.7% around midday on the Oslo stock exchange.
Producer Salmar was up 2.9% and Bakkafrost 2.3%. – Rappler.com