Beijing: Wuhan, where the global coronavirus epidemic first started, has ordered officials to prepare to test its entire 11 million population after the central Chinese city reported a handful of new infections for the first time since its lockdown was lifted, according to state media reports.
All districts in the city have been told to submit a plan which should lay out how they will prepare within ten days to conduct testing of everyone under their purview, said a document cited by local media reports as being released by Wuhan’s anti-virus department. The plan should prioritise the testing of vulnerable groups and areas like residential compounds, the document said.
Six locally transmitted cases, reported on May 10 and 11, were found in people already under quarantine who were asymptomatic before testing positive, according to the local government. All six cases emerged from a single residential compound and were the first new infections found in Wuhan since its lockdown was lifted on April 8.
The ambitious move to test everyone in Wuhan reflects China’s anxiety over a resurgence of the epidemic, which it managed to stamp out through restrictions that locked down hundreds of millions of people at its peak in February. Wuhan was sealed off from January 23 until April 8.
Even as its people cautiously return to normal life, the city has come under the global spotlight again after US President Donald Trump’s administration charged that the virus is linked to a laboratory in the Wuhan Institute of Virology. China has denied any link and the laboratory’s director said that no staff have been infected, which he said disproves the theory.
Although the new cases in Wuhan are few and appear under control, they serve as a reminder of the risk China faces as it tries to reopen an economy that has seen its worst contraction since 1992.
“Seven provinces reported new infections over the past 14 days, and clustered cases were continuing to increase,” Mi Feng, spokesman for the National Health Commission, said on Monday. China reported only one confirmed case on Tuesday, with no new infections in Wuhan.
Fears of resurgence in other parts of China were highlighted on Sunday when the northeastern city of Shulan, which borders North Korea, was partially locked down after 11 new infections were discovered. Many cities in China still don’t allow cinemas and bars to operate, and heavy restrictions against social gatherings remain in place. Face masks are required for public transport and entering stores and public facilities.