At least seven new cases of covid-19 has been detected over the past two days in Wuhan, China prompting city officials to declare that everyone in the city will be tested for coronavirus. Again.
The new covid-19 cases are the first outbreak of the highly infectious disease in Wuhan since May of 2020, when all 11 million people in the city were tested in less than two weeks. Wuhan, the city where the coronavirus pandemic began in late 2019, endured a strict 76-day lockdown in early 2020. But the draconian measures allowed Wuhan’s residents to resume life as normal by the summer of 2020.
China accomplishes mass testing by requiring swabs from everyone in a given region and then mixing the tests together in large batches to save time and money on supplies. When a positive result comes back from a large batch, then health workers can work backward and test each person individually from that batch to identify who’s actually infected.
The most recent mass-testing for covid-19 in China was undertaken just last week in Nanjing, where 8.7 million of the city’s 9.3 million people were tested, according to CTGN. Forty-nine people tested positive and went into quarantine.
The region of Dongguan was also mass tested in June after just a handful of cases were detected there. Contact tracers were able to detect 86 close contacts who entered quarantine, effectively suppressing spread of the virus.
There were just 61 new locally-acquired cases of covid-19 identified on Monday in all of China, which includes 1.4 billion people. The vast majority of the cases, 45, were found in Jiangsu province, according to Chinese state media outlet Xinhua. There were also 29 new cases from overseas, though people entering the country are required to quarantine before they’re allowed any freedom of movement. China reported no new deaths on Monday.
China has a adopted a zero tolerance approach to covid-19, employing harsh lockdowns and mass testing to stamp out the disease in the country whenever it pops up. And whatever you think of the civil liberties implications, the method has worked to keep China relatively covid-free.
That being said, China has struggled in recent months to keep a lid on covid-19 as the Delta variant of the disease becomes dominant around the world. The Delta variant has roughly 1,000 times the viral load of the original virus, meaning it spreads through the population much easier.
The Delta variant is highly infectious, but the vaccines that have been developed are still working well against the virus. So-called “breakthrough infections” among vaccinated people can happen, as they apparently did with U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham yesterday, but the covid-19 vaccines are remarkably good at protecting against death and the need for hospitalization.
More than 99% of deaths from covid-19 in the U.S. during recent months have been among unvaccinated people. Italy has reported identical figures, with the country’s top health officials telling reporters last week that 99% of covid-19 deaths in Italy since February have been among the unvaccinated.
China’s vaccination efforts have been relatively slow, and has fully vaccinated just 223 million people. Yes, that’s a lot of jabs. But it’s a fraction of China’s population of 1.4 billion. And with just 14% of the world’s eligible population vaccinated, humanity clearly has quite a ways to go before we can declare this pandemic over.