Qingdao to test 9m population for coronavirus in wake of new cases
The city of Qingdao in east China’s Shandong Province said yesterday it will test its entire population of more than 9 million people for coronavirus, after discovering 12 new infections that appeared to be linked to a hospital treating imported infections.
Daily COVID-19 infections in China’s mainland have fallen drastically since the early outbreak. China had reported no new domestically transmitted cases since early August, but has remained on high alert.
Qingdao reported a total of six new COVID-19 cases and six asymptomatic infections on Sunday, all linked to the Qingdao Chest Hospital, where infected travelers arriving from overseas have been treated in an isolated area. The specific source of infection was still under investigation.
The testing would cover the city in five days, the city said, and over a million samples have already been collected.
Starting from 7am yesterday, the residents of a community in the city’s Shinan District began to line up at a testing point to receive nucleic acid testing. They were notified to undergo the testing on Sunday evening.
“It took about 20 minutes to wait before getting the testing. It’s a responsible move to conduct tests for ourselves and for others, too,” said a local resident surnamed Wang.
The new cases were all of current or former patients in Qingdao Chest Hospital, hospital staff, or their family members. One asymptomatic case was a taxi driver whose wife worked at the hospital and was also infected.
Qingdao said it has locked down the Qingdao Chest Hospital as well as the emergency department of its central hospital, which the taxi driver visited. Buildings housing infected individuals have also been locked down as part of the city’s virus containment measures. All close contacts have been quarantined and are under observation. The Loushanhou community where the chest hospital is located has been designated as a medium-risk area for the coronavirus.
China’s National Health Commission yesterday sent a working group to Qingdao to guide COVID-19 epidemic control.
The new infections emerged shortly after China completed its Golden Week holiday, during which millions of people traveled domestically. According to the Qingdao Culture and Tourism Administration, the city received a total of 4.48 million travelers during the holiday.
Disease control authorities in several cities advised residents to avoid unnecessary trips to Qingdao. An investment and trade expo in Qingdao organized by the Shanghai Cooperation Organization and scheduled for the weekend of October 16-18 was postponed due to the need for COVID-19 epidemic prevention and control, the organizers said yesterday.
Qingdao’s mass testing campaign is not China’s first. The hard-hit Wuhan City tested its entire population, and mass schemes involving several million samples have also been conducted in Beijing and Urumqi in the northwest Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region. The last reported virus transmissions within China were four patients found on August 15 in Urumqi. All the cases reported since then were in travelers from outside the mainland.