Fishy Covid Tests: China Swabs Fish In Dubious Effort To Control Virus

Published 1 year ago
Pollack Catch on Deck of Factory Trawler


Cities in China are now swabbing live fish for Covid-19 as officials fight to contain growing outbreaks, a likely futile endeavor that underscores the extreme measures Beijing will take in its mission to stamp out the virus.


Authorities in the coastal city of Xiamen have ordered fishers and their catch to be swabbed and tested for Covid-19 when returning from sea, according to South China Morning Post

Officials claim such measures prevent the spread of Covid and are necessary after some fishers imported the virus after making contact or illegally trading with other vessels at sea, though no virus has been detected among marine life.


Videos and pictures of officials swabbing crabs, shrimp and open-mouthed fish have appeared in local media and taken off on social media, with many criticizing the absurdly wide net Beijing is willing to cast in pursuit of its zero-Covid policies. 

Other cities have also mounted Covid fishing expeditions among marine life, according to local media, with medical workers in Danzhou city reportedly swabbing fish on boats as the city entered lockdown in August.

Similar tactics were also deployed by healthcare workers in hazmat suits during an outbreak in Shanghai in late March, but instead of boats they were trawling seafood markets in search of the virus. 

Testing fish for Covid is futile and a red herring—it is practically impossible for them to be infected, let alone pass that on to humans if they are—as fish live in water (which will kill the virus), have different body temperatures (which the virus is not adapted to) and have cellular differences (that likely make them and the virus incompatible).



China’s pursuit of its strict zero-Covid policy marks it an international outlier in the effort to manage the coronavirus. Beijing’s unrelenting adherence to the policy has sparked extreme measures like compulsory mass testing—including with anal swabs—strict isolation and locking down entire cities for weeks, sometimes over a handful of cases. The virus that causes Covid-19, SARS-CoV-2, was first identified in the Chinese city of Wuhan, where experts believe it almost certainly jumped into humans from animals sold at a market. From the early stages of the pandemic, Beijing has obstructed international efforts to independently investigate the origins of the virus and pushed alternative theories that have little scientific evidence backing them. Various theories promoted include claims the virus was imported on frozen food, delivered with overseas mail and introduced by the U.S. military


2.3 million. That’s how many confirmed cases of Covid-19 there have been in China since the start of the pandemic, according to Johns Hopkins University. There have been nearly 15,000 Covid deaths in China in that time. These numbers—in a country of more than a billion people—have not been independently verified and critics believe are a significant undercount.