COVID-19: Virus birthplace to test city’s entire 11 million population amid fears of rebound

PTI, May 12, 2020, 9:16 PM IST

Wuhan: Wuhan, the Chinese city where the deadly novel coronavirus emerged in December last year, has decided to test the city’s entire 11 million population after new cases were reported for the first time in weeks, sparking fears of the second wave of the virus attack.

The city has prepared a 10-day plan to test all its residents after six new coronavirus cases were reported in a residential community, official media reported on Tuesday.

Hubei province and its capital Wuhan on April 8 lifted a prolonged lockdown clamped on January 23 as the disease spread through the region like wildfire. In all 4,512 people, including 3,869 in Wuhan, have died due to the COVID-19 in over three months of the devastation caused by the vicious virus.

Hubei province had reported 68,134 confirmed COVID-19 cases in total, including 50,339 in Wuhan. Besides reporting new clusters of cases, Wuhan also reported 650 asymptomatic cases.

Asymptomatic cases refer to people who are tested COVID-19 positive but develop no symptoms such as fever, cough or sore throat. However, they pose a risk of spreading the disease to others. Peng Zhiyong, director of the intensive care unit of the Zhongnan Hospital of Wuhan University, told the state-run Global Times that he has not received the details of the testing plan.

He said testing everyone would be costly, so the testing is very likely to focus on key groups and communities such as close contacts of patients and their family members, medical staff, the elderly and those with pre-existing medical conditions. Yang Zhanqiu, deputy director of the pathogen biology department at the Wuhan University, expanded the scale of its testing in April and tested targeted groups of people.

“About three to five million residents have been tested and proved healthy, and thus Wuhan is capable to test the remaining 6 to 8 million in 10 days.” Yang believes the city-wide test may be unnecessary as “you’ll never know if people were infected after testing negative.” So “It’s essentially an epidemiological investigation to determine the current situation.”

Wu Zunyou, an epidemiologist from the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, said that large-scale screening and testing is unnecessary. Wu told state television CCTV that he believes the main battlefields are in key communities and certain groups of people. Wang Zhonglin, the head of the ruling Communist Party unit in Wuhan, said learning from recent new cases will prevent a rebound and is the best way to ensure people’s health and safety.

Globally, the death toll due to COVID-19 has gone up to 287,158 with over four million infections reported so far. The US is the worst affected country, according to Johns Hopkins University tally.

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