Drastic plan for Wuhan after six new cases emerge in original epicentre

Tom Flanagan
·News Reporter
·3-min read

All 11 million residents in the original coronavirus epicentre are set to be tested for coronavirus following a resurgence of cases, as China looks to thwart a potential second wave and stamp out COVID-19 from the city.

The ambitious plan was ordered by Wuhan’s authorities on Monday (local time) after six new cases were confirmed in the city after a 35-day period without symptomatic infections.

District governments were tasked with submitting plans by Tuesday to have the entire city’s population tested in a 10-day blitz, internal documents seen by Reuters state.

The infections are reportedly the first for a city on high-alert since ending its 76-day lockdown on April 8.

A worker in protective overalls take the temperature of a traveler from Wuhan before directing her to her district in Beijing on Sunday, April 19, 2020. Wuhan, the city at the center of the global coronavirus epidemic, lifted a 76-day lockdown early April and allowed people to leave for destinations across China. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)
A Wuhan traveller has her temperature checked after leaving the city. Source: AP

Wuhan’s 11 million people were placed under the most stringent lockdown seen on the planet when the virus spread throughout Hubei’s capital in January.

And while normal service is far from returning to the city, its population has slowly had its freedom of movement increased with authorities carefully analysing its effect on the virus.

The authorities’ audacious plan of action for the new outbreak is a sign its rigorous and authoritarian approach to beating the virus remains.

There is also a sense of determination of not wanting to inflict another period of heavy restrictions on an already severely depleted economy.

“It is important to realise that a decisive result does not equal a decisive victory, lowering the emergency response level does not equal lowering defences,” said Communist Party official Wang Zhonglin, according to the state-run Changjiang Daily.

“We must not be careless or lax.”

The widespread testing comes at a time when several countries badly hit by the virus report a shortage of testing kits globally.

Just last month Australia was able to acquire 10 million tests from China after the help of billionaire Andrew ‘Twiggy’ Forrest who was able fend off other countries in the deal thanks to his extensive links in China.

Residents wearing mask against the coronavirus walk through a partially closed retail street in Wuhan in central China's Hubei province on April 13, 2020. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)
Residents walk through central Wuhan as a sense of normality slowly begins to return. Source: AP

Wuhan virus spread ‘big concern’

Coronavirus figures in China have come under intense scrutiny in recent months, with claims that China underreported its number of cases and deaths.

In April, Wuhan added a further 1,300 deaths to its death toll and began announcing asymptomatic cases for the first time, albeit seperate from the overall total.

Bill Birtles, the ABC’s China correspondent, said on Wednesday it is feared there are more asymptotic cases in Wuhan than figures being made public.

“We pretty much think there are hundreds of people who have tested positive in Wuhan over the past month,” he said.

“It's just that, according to the government, they haven't shown symptoms.

“And this continues to be the big concern. This is why they now want to test everyone, because of these asymptomatic carriers.”

The current outbreak of six cases occurred in the Sanmin compound, home to 5,000 people. All its residents were immediately tested.

However Wu Zunyou, chief epidemiologist at the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, said in an interview with Chinese state television network CCTV he believes it wasn’t necessary to test those in areas that were free of the virus.

If a wave of new cases are discovered, Birtles believes Wuhan would continue its rigorous approach in forcefully isolating infected individuals away from family in temporary field hospitals it set up prior to the peak of the outbreak.

“This really has been seen as a massively important part of Wuhan's success in getting the number of cases down,” he said.

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