Some restaurants in China have stopped serving salmon amid speculations that the new coronavirus outbreak in Beijing is caused by the imported fish. The virus behind the rise in new coronavirus cases in China’s capital was reportedly discovered on chopping boards used for imported salmon at Xinfadi market, the biggest food market in the city.

While salmon’s link to infections is still a hypothesis, China has already halted imports of salmon from European suppliers. Major supermarkets in Beijing have also removed salmon from their shelves to exercise caution.

The suspension of salmon imports in China was confirmed by European salmon supplier Bakkafrost. “We can’t send any salmon to China now, the market is closed,” said Bakkafrost chief executive Regin Jacobsen. Norway Royal Salmon head of sales Stein Martinsen also said sales to China would be halted until the situation is “clarified.”

Theories about imported salmon’s link to coronavirus infections in Beijing was caused by genetic traces of the virus found in Xinfadi market. However, an infectious diseases expert said any link to salmon was probably just a result of cross-contamination.

“Markets can be crowded places, so, like in Wuhan, they help fuel the spread,” said Keith Neal, an emeritus professor of the epidemiology of infectious diseases at Britain’s University of Nottingham. This was supported by Marion Koompmans, head of the viroscience department at the Erasmus University Medical Center in Rotterdam, who said it would be impossible to determine the source of the new coronavirus in Beijing with limited data.

“There’s mention of a European sequence, but it’s hard to say that with certainty unless there’s a lot of other data on virus diversity in China,” said Koopmans. “It’s hard for me to understand what they mean by a European strain. What we have seen with the global spread of the virus is that it is diversifying because it gets introduced to different areas and continues to circulate, so you see a signature that looks like this is now a ‘European virus,’ but that same signature may also be circulating in Asia—we don’t know,” she added.

On Tuesday, Beijing authorities placed Beijing on lockdown to control the new coronavirus outbreak.

Shanghai, China
Shanghai, China Li Yang/Unsplash

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