July 15 (UPI) -- China remains on alert after local authorities claimed Friday the external packaging for frozen shrimp imported from three firms in Ecuador contained traces of the novel coronavirus.
The companies are challenging the claims, however, as Ecuador conducts diplomacy at the highest level to resolve the impasse. Beijing has suspended shrimp imports from three Ecuadorean firms.
China's People's Daily reported Wednesday authorities in Pingxiang City, Jiangxi Province, continue to inspect frozen shrimp packaging originating from Ecuador, after Chinese customs said last week the containers in which the shrimp arrived tested positive for COVID-19.
Authorities reportedly found outside packaging material tested positive for the virus last week, but the seafood and internal packaging turned out negative test results.
Concern is rising in China following local reports the product was sold on an online platform, Xingshen Youxuan. Customers in the province who purchased the product were tracked and ordered to go into quarantine, in addition to others who may have been in contact, according to Chinese state media.
The measures being taken in China have led to complaints from Industrial Pesquera Santa Priscila SA, one of the companies under scrutiny. The Ecuadorean firm and two other companies, Empacreci SA and Empacadora Del Pacifico Sociedad Anonima Edpacif, have been banned from exporting to China, according to Norway-based news agency IntraFish.
On Tuesday, Ecuador's top diplomat to the United Nations Luis Gallegos said President Lenin Moreno sent a letter to Chinese leader Xi Jinping to resolve the shrimp standoff.
Ecuador was a major hot spot of the coronavirus pandemic in Latin America in March and April. Ecuador's Health Minister Juan Carlos Zevallos said at the time the virus was imported from Europe during the vacation season, according to Al Jazeera.