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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
“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.