'Race against time': Why China is testing millions of people for Covid

Tom Flanagan
·News Reporter
·3-min read

A Chinese city has undergone a major testing blitz of its nearly five million residents as the nation bolsters its reputation of taking no chances when coronavirus reemerges within the community.

Health authorities in Kashgar, in the province of Xinjiang, western China, home to the persecuted Uyghur minority, completed testing for 4,746,500 people by Tuesday.

The response was triggered by the discovery of a sole asymptomatic case in a 17-year-old female villager on Saturday.

"Kashgar raced against time and went all out to carry out free prefecture-wide COVID-19 test for all,” Party secretary of the Kashgar Health Commission Li Linyu said.

The testing blitz was completed on Tuesday. Source: Ifeng/ Weibo
The testing blitz was completed on Tuesday. Source: Ifeng/ Weibo

In the 24 hours to 5pm on Tuesday, the city detected five new cases and 19 asymptomatic cases, bringing the overall total since the testing blitz began to 183 of which 178 are asymptomatic.

China does not classify asymptomatic infections as confirmed COVID-19 cases.

The rest of the tests were all negative.

Nationally, China reported 16 cases and 50 asymptomatic cases on Monday, officials said Tuesday.

China has a population of roughly 1.4 billion people.

While China has not eradicated the virus, it has benefited from rapid and widespread testing when cases emerge – a method paired with stringent restrictions in Beijing’s bid to halt the spread of COVID-19.

The nation regularly boasts of its testing capabilities, with the Communist Party eager to project an image of victory over the virus as much of the world struggles with lockdowns and mass outbreaks.

In May, Wuhan, which had defeated its first wave weeks earlier, embarked on a testing blitz to test the city’s 11 million residents in a bid to thwart a potential second wave.

And a month later, millions more were being tested in Beijing after a resurgence of the virus, with more than 300,000 tests being processed daily.

After 13 cases were detected earlier this month in the eastern port city of Qingdao, officials tested nearly 11 million residents within a week.

KASHGAR, CHINA - OCTOBER 27, 2020 - Tourists line up to get on the train in Kashi railway station. Kashgar, Xinjiang, China, October 27, 2020.- PHOTOGRAPH BY Costfoto / Barcroft Studios / Future Publishing (Photo credit should read Costfoto/Barcroft Media via Getty Images)
Kashi railway station was full of passengers attempting to leave the city late on Tuesday. Source: Getty

Kashgar, near the country's borders with Pakistan, Afghanistan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan, is the cultural heart of ethnic Uyghurs and other Turkic Muslims, many of whom complain of long-running political and religious oppression, which the Chinese government denies.

All schools in Kashgar have been closed until October 30 and anyone leaving the city needs to show a negative nucleic acid test, the city government said.

Parts of the city had reportedly been placed into lockdown as the testing was undertaken.

State broadcaster CCTV showed footage of hundreds of people lining up to take nucleic acid tests outside hospitals and mobile testing centres set up across the city.

Urumqi, the capital of Xinjiang, was kept under strict lockdown for weeks after more than 900 cases were reported in mid-July.

Health authorities have said that outbreak has no link to the Kashgar cases.

with AFP

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