China curbs communal meals over coronavirus outbreak

 State-run media, catering associations and citizen organisations have sprung into action in China in the past week, with a new target in their campaign against the coronavirus: communal eating.

Whether hot pot, soups or a range of other dishes, campaigners want diners to reconsider the practice of taking food from communal dishes with their own individual chopsticks amid concern it might be helping the virus to spread.

The campaign comes even though the World Health Organization (WHO), China Center for Disease Control and China National Health Commission have remained on the fence about the subject, with the WHO citing lack of direct evidence as the main reason for not issuing any public warning.

“Some pathogens [or] germs can be transmitted by the sharing of utensils,” Tarik Jasarevic, a spokesman for the WHO, told Al Jazeera.

“The risk of spreading COVID-19 through sharing of utensils is not yet known, but plausible based on current knowledge.”

Tests needed

Dr Danielle Anderson, a leading virologist studying COVID-19 disease at Duke-NUS Medical School in Singapore, told Al Jazeera that without direct evidence, it was difficult for official bodies and scientific organisations to be so direct, but the practice was probably not a good idea.

“We can speculate that the virus can be spread on utensils due to the saliva, but without actually testing [or swabbing utensils], we can’t give a definitive statement,” she said.


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