A salesman who reportedly travelled around China promoting health products to the elderly has been linked to 102 confirmed Covid-19 infections, prompting tens of millions of people to be placed in lockdown.
The man travelled from his home province of Heilongjiang to neighbouring Jilin unknowingly infectious with coronavirus for several days before health officials tracked him down as a close contact of a confirmed case, state-run news agency Xinhua reported.
“The super-spreading phenomenon occurred in our province mainly because when the superspreader was discovered, he was still in the early phase of his infection and had relatively strong ability to shed the virus,” Zhao Qinglong, an official with the Jilin provincial disease control and prevention centre, told Xinhua.
It comes as China battles its worst virus outbreak in months with hundreds of reported cases resulting in tens of millions placed under lockdown in the Northern provinces.
The Jilin provincial health commission published a detailed itinerary of the man’s travels in the week before he tested positive for the virus which included four train rides, three bus rides and a metro ride as he travelled back and forth between Heilongjiang and Jilin.
Over a four-day period the man held marketing sessions and seminars promoting health products in community halls targeting elderly residents in the cities of Gongzhuling and Tonghua in Jilin.
According to CNN, 79 people who attended the meetings went on to infect 23 of their close contacts, Zhang Yan, deputy director of the commission, told media.
All those infected have been placed in quarantine.
The average age of those infected is 63 with the oldest being 87.
The so called “health clubs” have come under scrutiny since the superspreader event, often marketed toward the elderly, the sessions are unable to be regulated like large gatherings in cinemas or restaurants as they are usually held in private homes.
One of the health clubs, in Tonghua city, is located in a room on the ground floor of an old residential building, where 30 to 40 people attended the man's seminar, with few wearing masks, Xinhua reported.
“The infected people were gathered in an enclosed space for a long time,” Zhao told Xinhua.
“Most of them are middle-aged and elderly people with underlying health conditions, and weak immunity, and therefore extremely susceptible to infection.”
Jilin authorities are now investigating whether the two clubs where the infected man held promotions had violated any regulations.
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