Alibaba's Freshippo says will test all Shenzhen employees for COVID-19

SHANGHAI/SHENZHEN (Reuters) - Alibaba-owned supermarket chain Freshippo said on Saturday it has shut 21 of its Shenzhen stores and was requiring all its employees in the city to undergo tests for the novel coronavirus after three cases were found at one of its outlets there.

FILE PHOTO: Medical workers wearing protective suits are seen at a nucleic acid testing site outside the IBC Mall in Shenzhen after a worker was confirmed to have the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), Guangdong province, China August 14, 2020.REUTERS/David Kirton

Freshippo said two brand promoters and one staff member who worked at its store in the IBC mall in Shenzhen’s Luohu district had tested positive for the virus, citing findings made by the city’s health authority.

“All Freshippo employees in Shenzhen, as well as fresh food products at the stores, will undergo nucleic acid testing. All test results will be formally announced by the government,” the company said in a statement.

The Shenzhen cases were discovered after a 41-year-old woman, who worked as a yoghurt salesperson at Freshippo, returned to her hometown of Lufeng city and tested positive for the virus on Aug. 14, the Shenzhen municipal health commission said. Both cities are located in Guangdong province.

The two other cases were asymptomatic, or currently do not show symptoms, the authority added.

It also said it would begin offering free nucleic acid tests to anyone who had visited the supermarket from July 24.

The IBC Mall was sealed off and under police supervision on Friday evening, with around 200 people queuing outside waiting for COVID-19 tests from medical personnel in protective suits.

The 41-year-old woman’s case was among eight locally transmitted cases China reported for Aug. 14. The seven others were found in the far western region of Xinjiang.

In total, China reported 22 new coronavirus cases in the mainland for Aug. 14, compared to 30 cases a day earlier, the national health commission said on Saturday. Of the new infections, 14 were imported.

China also reported 20 new asymptomatic patients, compared to 28 a day earlier. As of Aug. 14, mainland China had 84,808 confirmed coronavirus cases, the health authority said. The COVID-19 death toll remained at 4,634.

(This stoty has been refiled to correct typographical error in first paragraph).

Reporting by Brenda Goh in Shanghai and David Kirton in Shenzhen; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore