Wuhan, the epicenter of China’s coronavirus outbreak, said it tested nearly seven million people in 12 days, concluding a campaign to test the entire population after several infections prompted fears of a second wave.
A total of 6.68 million people underwent nucleic acid tests, of which 206 asymptomatic cases were reported, according to Bloomberg calculations based on daily numbers released by the local health commission.
Wuhan’s mass testing campaign is part of China’s efforts to prevent the resurgence of the epidemic at all costs after it shut down large swathes of the world’s second-largest economy to get it under control. The emergence of a new cluster of cases in its northeast region led officials to lock down some 100 million residents.
The ambitious testing mission was announced on May 12, days after new infections emerged for the first time since a 76-day lockdown was lifted in Wuhan in April. The pace of testing increased rapidly over the course of the campaign, with the city offering tests to over 1.1 million people on May 23, more than 26 times the number that were completed on the first day, according to the Wuhan Health Commission.
Chinese President Xi Jinping stressed the need to “not ruin the hard-won achievement” of containing the virus at a meeting with representatives from Hubei, the province of which Wuhan is the capital, during high-profile annual legislative meetings underway in Beijing.
The nation’s top leaders strive to project an image of calm and stability during the National People’s Congress every year, making it all the more crucial for the new clusters to be quickly stamped out.
Even before the mandated citywide testing in Wuhan, many companies in the city had taken the initiative to test all their employees before they returned to work because they risked getting shut down again if even a single infection was found.
China has also embarked on a serological survey to determine the true scale of its outbreak. The project involves researchers taking blood samples from a representative group of people to see if they have generated antibodies to fight the virus, a sign they were infected with the virus at some point.