Beijing, May 12 (efe-epa).- Authorities in the Chinese city of Wuhan, where the new coronavirus epidemic first emerged late last year, are planning to launch a massive testing campaign that might cover all of its 11 million residents after a small number of fresh cases emerged in the city, state media reported on Tuesday.
Citing city health officials, the Global Times daily reported that the government was set to carry out a 10-day city wide testing campaign, although the details and extent of the plan were yet to be finalized.
The measure comes after the city registered six new cases of COVID-19 over the weekend from a residential complex.
Before that, Wuhan and the surrounding province of Hubei had not registered any fresh infections since Apr. 4, leading to authorities easing restrictions and reducing the health alert to level two in a region which accounted for 80 percent of all coronavirus cases and 97 percent of the deaths in China.
According to the Global Times, the city government has asked districts to prepare detailed plans to carry out the epidemiological investigation, which would especially target areas with high population density as well as with high mobility of people.
The deputy director of pathogen biology at Wuhan University, Yang Zhanqiu, told the Global Times on Tuesday that Wuhan had already tested 3-5 million residents and was capable of testing the remaining 6 to 8 million people in 10 days.
Authorities have so far focused on testing medical workers and other professionals in key sectors such as teachers, elderly care workers, transport workers and other people involved in public services.
But some experts have said that it is unnecessary and too expensive to test everyone, apart from pointing out that it was impossible to determine if a person who tested negative may not get infected subsequently.
Peng Zhiyong, director of the intensive care unit of the Zhongnan Hospital, told Global Times that it could be sufficient to focus on groups such as the close contacts of coronavirus patients and their family members, medical staff, the elderly and those with pre-existing medical conditions.
The head of the Communist Party of China in Wuhan, Wang Zhonglin, said on Monday that the best way to protect the health of residents was to learn from the spread of the fresh cases, in order to prevent a new outbreak.
Meanwhile, the spokesperson of the National Health Commission of China, Mi Feng, said on Tuesday that the emergence of fresh COVID-19 cases at the local level while the epidemic appeared under control was a warning that the country mustn’t let its guard down in terms of prevention measures.
The NHC said that it had sent a field team to the city of Shulan, situated in the northeastern Jilin province, to help with epidemiological investigation after 11 fresh locally-transmitted COVID-19 cases – unrelated to travelers arriving from abroad – were reported from the city on Saturday.
Shulan authorities have announced measures such as transport restrictions and closure of parks, libraries and cyber-cafes. EFE-EPA