China's Wuhan has tested third of residents for coronavirus

City embarks on enormous testing exercise after emergence of new clusters of cases following end of lockdown.

    Wuhan's lockdown was lifted on April 8, but as new cases of coronavirus are detected the city is moving to implement mass testing [Aly Song/Reuters]
    Wuhan's lockdown was lifted on April 8, but as new cases of coronavirus are detected the city is moving to implement mass testing [Aly Song/Reuters]

    Wuhan, the Chinese city where the coronavirus first appeared late last year, says it has tested more than three million residents for the pathogen since April, as it steps up efforts to test the remainder of its 11 million population, state media reported.

    Wuhan will conduct tests on everyone in the city, with the goal of getting a clear number of asymptomatic cases as businesses and schools reopen, the official Xinhua News Agency reported late on Thursday.

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    The priority will be residents who have not been tested before, people living in residential compounds that had previous cases of the virus, as well as older estates or compounds in densely populated estates, Xinhua said, citing a Wuhan government meeting.

    Wuhan reported a cluster of infections over the weekend, the first since an almost total lockdown of the city was lifted on April 8, raising fears of a second wave. The latest cases were previously recorded as asymptomatic, people who had the virus but showed no symptoms.

    State media did not say how many people had been tested before April 1. 

    The first cases of coronavirus were reported among people who worked at a now-closed seafood market in the city in December, but the number of cases grew in January when the first death was reported, and the city was sealed off just before the Lunar New Year.

    Reuters news agency, citing an internal document to district officials, reported on May 11 that a city-wide campaign of nucleic acid tests would take place over 10 days.

    New cases emerge

    Wuhan conducted 1.79 million tests from April 1 to May 13, according to Reuters' calculations based on daily reports published by the city's health commission.

    The official test number for May 14 will be published on Friday.

    China Wuhan
    Workers in protective suits collect swabs from secondary school students at the Hubei Wuchang Experimental High School in Wuhan before their return to classes on May 6 [cnsphoto via Reuters]

    Recently, Wuhan has detected several to more than a dozen asymptomatic infections every day. Although those people are all treated in isolation, they still trigger concern in the community, Xinhua said.

    Some experts say the mass testing is unprecedented in scale and shows the level of concern. Others warn on potential testing errors due to the sheer size of the sampling.

    On Friday, China's National Health Commission reported four new confirmed cases in the mainland for May 14, up from three cases a day earlier.

    All of the new cases were locally transmitted and the number of new asymptomatic cases fell slightly to 11 from 12 a day earlier.

    The total number of confirmed cases in mainland China now stands at 82,933 while the death toll remained unchanged at 4,633.

    China does not include asymptomatic virus carriers in its tally of confirmed cases. It also does not disclose the overall number of asymptomatic cases in the country. 

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    SOURCE: Reuters news agency