Authorities in China’s Qingdao said on Monday they would test the city’s entire population of more than nine million people for COVID-19 during the next five days, after new cases appeared linked to a hospital treating people who had been confirmed with the disease after returning from overseas.
The coastal city, nearly 700km (435 miles) southeast of Beijing, reported six new COVID-19 cases and six asymptomatic cases as of late October 11 with most of the cases linked to the Qingdao Chest Hospital.
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China has extensive, quick test capabilities and the health commission said more than 140,000 employees of “medical institutions, newly admitted patients and personnel” had been tested in Qingdao since the cases were confirmed.
After the announcement, the National Health Commission (NHC) said mainland China had 21 confirmed COVID-19 cases on October 11. The report did not , but not include any confirmed infections in Qingdao, and it was not immediately clear why.
The number of new asymptomatic cases, which China does not count as confirmed cases, rose to 32 from 23 a day earlier, the NHC said. It did not offer a breakdown on where the new asymptomatic cases were reported, although it said 29 of these cases involved people returning from overseas.
The coronavirus first emerged in the central city of Wuhan late last year, and the city and its surrounding province of Hubei were sealed off after cases surged towards the end of January.
China has bounced back since then and daily COVID-19 cases have fallen drastically from those peaks, but the country remains on high alert.
In June, large areas of Beijing were subject to mass tests after the capital, which is home to more than 20 million people, detected virus cases linked to a food market.
Qingdao has already locked down Qingdao Chest Hospital as well as the emergency department of its central hospital. The buildings where those diagnosed with the disease live have also been sealed off as part of the authorities’ containment measures.
China is also eager to be first to roll out a coronavirus vaccine, with several companies in final-stage trials. Although unproven, vaccines have already been administered to hundreds of thousands of key workers and soldiers.
The total number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in mainland China now stands at 85,578, while the death toll remained unchanged at 4,634.