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There are advance lines of an unprecedented campaign in the central Chinese city of Wuhan to let about 11 million people learn about the onset of the coronovirus epidemic. In about two weeks, the government is approaching its target, with 6.5 million trials conducted so far.
“Our community was examined one day,” said 32-year-old resident Wang Yuan, who was lined up near her home under a red tent and strangled by medical workers wearing protective suits and face shields.
He was expected to get results within two to four days.
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While other governments have struggled to provide testing for their population on a wider scale, China has launched a citywide campaign to prevent a resurgence of infection at all costs. It has succeeded by mobilizing thousands of medical and other workers and spending millions of dollars, according to residents and Chinese news reports.
The government, which is covering the costs of testing, sees the campaign as critical to restoring public confidence that is needed to help the economy restart and return to normal levels. But public health experts disagree on whether such a resource-intensive push is necessary if the infection subsides.
The drive – which has reached more than 90% of the city, taking into account recently tested children and children – has largely confirmed that Wuhan has stopped the outbreak. As of Tuesday, about 200 cases were found, most people who showed no symptoms, although the samples were still being processed.
The city has increased its testing capacity in the last two weeks, when the government struggled to find enough test kits. Lab technicians were able to speed up the process by pooling samples together for testing in batches.
The laboratories processed about 46,000 tests a day, before the drive, with 1.47 million tests done on Friday. By comparison, New York State has tested 1.7 million people since March 4, according to The Atlantic’s COVID tracking project.
The Wuhan government is determined not to leave anyone behind. Authorities, ordered to “check for leaks and fill in the gaps”, proceeded door-to-door to register residents and move them to nearby testing centers. In at least one neighborhood, officials warned in public announcements that residents who refused to take the test would downgrade their government-issued health code, possibly limiting a person’s right to work and travel Will give
The declaration states, “If you do not participate, you will not be allowed to enter supermarkets or banks.” “Your green code will turn yellow, causing discomfort in your life.”
The Wuhan government had urged a “small number of residents” who still had not submitted the test to sign up for it before 5pm. Tuesday. People were warned that if they did not do so before the deadline, they would have to pay to conduct tests in the future.
Many residents supported the tests. But in a city where almost everyone knew someone who was infected or died, there was also resistance and fear.
Herri Tu, a Wuhan resident, refused days to sign up for a test slot, despite the insistence of her neighborhood officials. How will so many people gather safely, while maintaining a 2 meter separation? Will medical personnel actually change gears between each person tested?
“We are completely opposed to this,” Tu said of his family. “Because, even if you weren’t infected to begin with, this test just means contact.”
He finally agreed to take the test this past weekend, after his children’s school said they could not return to class without doing so. But he remained angry.
“In fact, the government is not doing this for the benefit of the people,” he said. “It is for the outside world to see.”
In Hongshan district, more than 100 people waited on May 18 in nearly 90-degree heat, said Zhou Chengcheng, a resident. But he refused to leave.
“I felt it was just a formality,” he said. “The scene was quite disorganized, and this increases the risk of silent infection.”
The government attempted to assure that the test drive would not be the source of infection. Each resident was given a time slot to avoid congestion. The test was conducted in open spaces. Residents had to check their temperature, wear masks and keep distance from each other. Medical workers are required to change or disinfect their gloves after each test.
But confirmed, symptomatic infection remains in single digits in Wuhan, with some experts saying that the scale of Wuhan’s campaign was excessive. Jin Dongyun, a virologist at Hong Kong University, said that it would be impossible to accurately test many people in such a short time.
Under normal circumstances, nucleic acid tests for coronovirus are difficult to administer in hospitals, even with well-trained nurses, Jin said. In quick succession, attempting to conduct many of them in a makeshift testing tent can produce many incorrect results.
The reliability of China’s test kits and reagents has also been questioned, with some countries complaining that the haggling by Chinese manufacturers to meet global demand has led to faulty exports.
For a city of about 10 million, Jin said, a sample of about 100,000 people would be more than enough. He called Wuhan’s campaign to spread to every Wuhan resident in a “scary” manner because it would greatly benefit the medical staff.
Even the leading epidemiologist at China’s Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Wu Xunyu, suggested that not everyone in the city needed to be tested.
Wuhan’s approach is not necessarily replicated everywhere.
Batch testing involves a combination of multiple swabs from different people in a plastic tube to be analyzed using a test. A negative result means that all samples can be cleaned, but if the batch returns positive, the medical staff may return to test each individual in the group individually.
But it only works in places where there is less prevalence of infection, the researchers say. If the rate of infection in a community is very high, most groups will have to retire, defeating the purpose of group testing.
The approach has been adopted elsewhere in places like Nebraska and the San Francisco Bay Area, although the same scale has not been attempted in Wuhan. A district in Beijing announced this month that it would test teachers and students in three batches in preparation to reopen schools.
Proponents of the test push say it will give health officials a more comprehensive view of the situation in Wuhan, in which people are heterogeneous. The campaign was launched after a month of newly confirmed cases by the authorities discovered six infections.
Some proponents of the test drive acknowledged that the real value of the campaign was not so much medical as psychological. While extensive testing would be costly, a paralyzed economy would cost too much, Guo Guangchang, the head of Fosun, a major Chinese conglomerate, told Chinese media.
“If there is no test, everyone will still be scared,” Guo said. “Many companies will have no way to resume production, and the service industry will have no customers.”
The loss of production and service industry in Wuhan could result in a loss of 6 billion yuan (about 844 million dollars) a day.
A virologist at Wuhan University, Yang Zhaniku, said he hoped that with the citywide test, more people would feel comfortable outside.
“This push to test everyone will improve the vitality of the city and provide a scientific foundation to resume work,” Yang said. “It can make people feel at ease and give peace of mind to all.”
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