China braces for widespread virus testing

China is bracing to make widespread coronavirus testing a new normality. In the coming months all residents of Wuhan, approximately 11 million, will be tested, with the programme to go on to other provinces, news wires reported.  Wuhan decided to conduct mass testing after a cluster of new infections emerged, sources said. China is able to produce 5 million test kits a day, the country’s industry ministry said last month.

Major Chinese cities and provinces have published lists of hundreds of hospitals and clinics now authorised to perform tests and are expanding laboratory capabilities to allow people to obtain their nucleic acid test results in a few hours. Some local governments have added the tests to basic medical insurance schemes, helping to cover costs which range from 60-270 yuan ($8.50-$38).

While China has not tallied how many daily tests are being carried out nationally, its capacity is far greater than other countries including the US, which has conducted around 300,000 tests daily on average in recent days, according to the non-profit COVID Tracking Project. Even South Korea and Germany, hailed for tested widely, were able to conduct roughly 20,000 and 120,000 tests a day, respectively, at their peak.

China began pushing for widespread testing in April as concerns about the potential asymptomatic patients spreading the virus rose. Since 13 April, each Chinese province has been required to provide daily reports on their virus testing efforts, and a stringent nationwide regime of screening, testing and quarantine has seen case numbers fall sharply since peaking in mid-February. Even so, China has refrained from making testing mandatory for all people. Daily, country-wide testing data is not published, and the ramp up of testing capability has been uneven.

More on this subject: Coronavirus

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