Beijing raises testing to million a day as new cases drop

By Javier García

Beijing, Jun 22 (efe-epa).- Beijing continued to increase its Covid-19 testing capacity to one million samples a day as the rate of new infections in the capital fell on Monday.

Testing provision has doubled in recent days as health personnel and mobile laboratories, which can analyze up to 230,000 samples daily, have been sent to the city from other provinces.

The analytical capacity of the laboratories is still considerably less than the daily samples collected, currently around 500,000.

Joint group tests incorporate five samples in a single analysis and allow Beijing to screen up to one million specimens in a day.

If one of the samples of a group tests positive then each one is individually analyzed to locate the infection.

The number of testing centers has gone from 98 to 124 in recent days and around 2.3 million people have been tested, amounting to 10 percent of the city’s 22 million population.

New cases from an outbreak that was detected on 11 June at Xinfadi market, the capital’s main fresh food hub, fell to nine on Monday after 22 the previous day.

There have been 236 infections related to the Xinfadi outbreak, which was discovered after the city had gone 55 days without a new case.

Municipal health authorities were due to carry out tests on more than 100,000 delivery and taxi drivers on Monday.

Nucleic acid tests are also being conducted on all workers in the city’s restaurants, markets, grocery stores and universities.

More than 7,400 people work in Beijing’s laboratories day and night to analyze as many tests as possible, according to official media reports.

Municipal authorities have said the testing campaign could continue for up to 10 days until the transmission of the outbreak has been completely eliminated.

Group testing was used in Wuhan, the city where the new coronavirus that triggered the global pandemic was first detected.

This method allowed the city to screen nearly 10 million of its inhabitants in almost three weeks.

Beijing has prioritized large-scale testing among employees in 36 high-risk industries, including food delivery services, supermarkets, shopping malls, markets and food distribution centers.

Xu Hejian, a municipal government spokesman, said on Monday that containment measures are showing positive results but caution was still needed.

“People should always wear a mask when they go shopping and wash their hands well after touching the products in the supermarket,” he added.

Epidemiologist Wu Hao, of the China Center for Disease Control, told state television that the outbreak will flatten and the number of new cases should sharply drop after a week.

“We already know where the cases are and who they are, so it is under control,” he added.

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