Multiple shocks of Covid-19 and tragedy of fisheries | Daily News

Multiple shocks of Covid-19 and tragedy of fisheries

Former Fisheries Minister Dilip Wedaarachchi eats raw fish during a press conference to prove that fish is harmless.
Former Fisheries Minister Dilip Wedaarachchi eats raw fish during a press conference to prove that fish is harmless.

Part 2

Scientists and authorities across the world are monitoring the spread of the virus and there is currently no evidence that food is a source of coronavirus (COVID-19). According to the World Health Organisation (WHO) and European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), it is highly unlikely that people can contact the virus from food or food packaging. Scientists and Medical experts have claimed that the COVID-19 is a respiratory illness and the primary transmission route is through person-to-person contact and from direct contact with respiratory droplets generated when an infected person coughs or sneezes. However, on 1st of November 2020, the Indian Express reported that a group of researchers at the South China Agricultural University found the COVID-19 virus in salmon fish samples, which could survive for 8 days at 4 degrees Celsius (39 degrees Fahrenheit). That’s roughly the temperature at which fish are transported in cold storage. Nonetheless, this is a localized study and it is quite unscientific to accept the findings until further research is carried out.

A fish stall

In point of fact, people still have an ambivalent opinion towards the consumption of fish as their fears and doubts have not yet been dispelled. Instead of papering over the cracks, it is the responsibility of the Government and the relevant authorities to take immediate action to carry out relevant research and provide concrete evidence to clear the doubts on consumption of fish among people. However, the Ministry of Health has reaffirmed that fish and related products are safe for consumption, provided that they are cooked in a hygienic manner. Issuing a press release, the Acting Director General of Health Services Dr. S. Sridharan has stated that there is no scientific evidence that the virus can thrive on fish that is well-cooked. Yet, in a theoretical sense, the coronavirus virus can thrive on many surfaces, including uncooked fish (especially on the mucus layer on the skin of the fish) for a considerable amount of time, unless it is disinfected or thoroughly washed off.

As reported by The Hindu newspaper of India on the 11th of November 2020, a group of Japanese doctors has found that the coronavirus could remain on human skin for about 9 days. Although not researched yet, it is likely that food items such as vegetables and meats, may also carry the coronavirus on their skin, a fact that has not received much attention. Obviously, droplets of saliva from an infected vendor could easily land on the surface of food when he sneezes or coughs. Thus, some or all of the food that we consume may carry the virus on their skin and fish is no exception. When information is imperfect, the most prudent thing is to wash your fish (and other food) thoroughly before cooking while refraining from touching your face with the same hands.

The utensils that are used for storage or for the cooking and preparation of fish need to be washed thoroughly after they have been used. It is also wise to wear a mask (and even gloves) when fish is removed from the refrigerator because the virus can survive in extremely cold temperatures. Moreover, it is extremely essential that the fisheries outlets across the country maintain proper handling practices, and to operate under strict health and safety guidelines; such as wearing a face mask at all times, hand washing or sanitizing as necessary, wearing gloves and boots while handing fish, maintaining physical distance, and adopting respiratory etiquette, which should be followed by vendors, suppliers, and consumers. Obviously, fish forms our foremost provider of animal proteins and it should be eaten to keep us in good health, provided that you wash it well and wash yourself.

Today, we are all alarmed and terrified of the shocking speed at which the virus is spreading into all corners of the country. We have realized that lockdowns is not a solution because nearly 1.9 million self-employed and daily paid workers will have no means of living and the country’s economy would be crippled. Thus the country has now decided to live with the virus. A recent study conducted in the Western Province has shown that 1 in every 20 persons could carry the virus.

This cautions us to be extremely careful in every step that we take. Whether we are fish producers, fish consumers or any of the rest, we all have to live. Incontestably, we should endeavor to ‘live and let others live’. What is required in the present context would be to adhere to all important guidelines laid down by health authorities; social distancing, wearing protective clothing, thoroughly washing all our fish, meat and vegetables, utensils and, washing our hands and the body regularly, which form our current social responsibility, to keep us and others away from the virus.