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China Pushes for Regular Mass Virus Testing

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Chinese cities and provinces have turned to regular mass coronavirus testing, even within the absence of an area Covid-19 outbreak, raising concerns in regards to the economic toll.

The 99 million residents of central Henan Province will likely be required to take P.C.R. tests every other day by June. Within the eastern province of Zhejiang, drivers are tested at highway exits before they’ll enter. Beijing, which has a small outbreak, is among the many cities now requiring a test to get on the subway or enter any public place.

The “zero Covid” approach to contain the highly infectious Omicron variant risks increasing economic stress and further irking a population that has been protesting the country’s strict lockdowns. Even so, officials are sticking with it. The strategy has appeared repeatedly in official announcements and state media in recent weeks.

In early May, Sun Chunlan, a Chinese vice premier, said that residents of huge cities should find a way to get P.C.R. tests inside a 15-minute walk of their homes. By mid-May, nearly 10,000 booths had been arrange across Shanghai. But not all local governments can afford to do what China’s wealthiest city does.

Regular mass testing in China’s larger and more developed cities, which might comprise around 500 million people, could cost over 1.7 trillion yuan, or $255 billion, a yr, or equal to about 1.5 percent of the county’s gross domestic product in 2021, in line with an estimate by Soochow Securities economists in early May. The report spread through Chinese social media and was later censored.

A health official said that testing wouldn’t should be as extensive in every single place.

The testing needs to be focused on provincial capitals which can be at high risk of importing infections and in cities with a population of no less than 10 million, Guo Yanhong, a National Health Commission official, said at a Monday news briefing. Testing frequency should depend upon the local situation, she said.

Still, five provinces and diverse cities other than major metropolises like Shanghai and Beijing have said they’re exploring regular P.C.R. testing and other measures.

In less affluent central provinces, strict containment and prevention measures have already taken a toll. Local governments in Sichuan and Anhui have called in recent weeks for public donations to alleviate strains in supplies of medical equipment.

On social media, there was no shortage of mockery of the brand new efforts. On Weibo, China’s Twitter-like platform, many users suggested that coronavirus testing could juice economic growth, which has dropped under lockdowns and travel bans.

In response, Hu Xijin, the previous editor of the Communist Party tabloid Global Times, praised Henan’s testing plan on Monday. He also repeated the official line that living with the virus would never work in China and that regular P.C.R. testing was the country’s most suitable choice.

“Please be polite and stop slandering nucleic acid tests by splashing dirty water,” Mr. Hu said.

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