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China’s Covid-19 “spreader” has been linked to 102 infections

The man, who worked as a salesman promoting health products for the elderly, traveled from his home province of Heilongjiang to the neighboring province of Jilin, carrying the virus with him.

Authorities say he unknowingly spread the virus to elderly residents for several days before being tracked by health officials as close contact with a confirmed case.

“The over-spread phenomenon occurred in our province mainly because when the over-spreader was discovered, it was still in the early stages of its infection and had a relatively strong ability to shed the virus,” said Zhao Qinglong, Jilin Province Control and Prevention Officer. reported the state news agency Xinhua.

An over-talk event occurs when a person infects a large number of people due to a higher viral load in their droplets or other factors such as behavior and time.

The apparent high-profile event in Jilin came as China battled the worst coronavirus epidemic in months, with hundreds of cases reported and tens of millions locked up in its northern provinces.

It also demonstrates the extent and speed of tracking and screening of contacts by Chinese health authorities, which have played a crucial role in controlling local outbreaks.

Detailed itineraries and privacy concerns

The seller was diagnosed as a confirmed case of Covid-19 Sunday after he was initially identified as an asymptomatic carrier last Tuesday, according to the Jilin Province Health Commission. China registers asymptomatic infections separately from the official number of cases.

The Commission published a detailed itinerary of the seller’s travels during the week before he tested positive for the virus, including four train journeys (with seat numbers listed), three bus journeys and a subway journey between Heilongjiang and Jilin.

For four days, the man conducted four “health seminars” or marketing sessions at community health clubs aimed at seniors in the cities of Gonjuling and Tonghua in Jilin.

In total, the individual infected 79 people who attended the seminars, who then infected 23 of their close contacts, said Zhang Yang, deputy director of the commission, at a news conference on Sunday. The average age of those infected is 63, with the oldest being 87, Zhang said.

All infected people were tracked as close contacts of the man and quarantined before being tested positive during medical surveillance, Zhang said.

Although an effective tool for tracking contacts, the publication of a detailed travel history of coronavirus patients has also raised privacy concerns in China.

Last month, a young woman in the southwestern city of Chengdu was publicly embarrassed on social media for her “decadent” lifestyle, as users attacked her for going to a bar and several nightclubs during the two weeks before taking positive tests for the virus.

Public health clubs under control

The apparent event of Jilin’s over-publicity has put health clubs under more control than health experts and authorities.

One of the health clubs in Tonghua is located in a room on the ground floor of an old apartment building, where 30 to 40 people attended the man’s seminar, with few masks on, Xinhua reported.

“The infected people were gathered indoors for a long time,” Zhao, Jilin’s health official, told Xinhua. “Most of them are middle-aged and elderly people with a health condition and weak immunity and therefore extremely susceptible to infections.”

So-called “health clubs” serving the elderly are becoming more common in residential communities in China, where regular marketing sessions, called “health lectures”, are held to promote health products such as supplements and physiotherapy equipment.

Unlike cinemas, restaurants, karaoke halls and other retail venues, these clubs are often hidden in apartment buildings and are difficult for authorities to regulate, according to Xinhua.

Jilin authorities are investigating whether the two health clubs where the man conducted promotions violated any regulations, a provincial market surveillance official told a news conference.

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