China's Wuhan city plans to test 11 million residents for coronavirus

A security guard checks the body temperature of a woman in Wuhan on May 11, 2020. PHOTO: AFP

BEIJING (REUTERS) - The Chinese city of Wuhan, the epicentre of China's coronavirus outbreak, plans to conduct citywide nucleic acid testing over a period of 10 days, according to an internal document seen by Reuters and two sources familiar with the situation.

Every district in the city has been told to submit a detailed testing plan by Tuesday (May 12) for their respective area, the document showed.

The Wuhan health authority could not be immediately reached for comment outside of business hours.

The city of 11 million people reported its first cluster of new infections over the weekend, after a months-long lockdown was lifted on April 8.

Wuhan reported on Monday its first cluster of infections since a lockdown on the city was lifted a month ago, stoking concerns of a wider resurgence of the disease.

The new infections sounded a note of caution amid efforts to ease coronavirus-related restrictions across China as businesses restart and individuals get back to work.

Wuhan reported five new confirmed cases, all from the same residential compound. One was the wife of an 89-year-old patient reported a day earlier in the first confirmed case in the central city in more than a month.

"At present, the task of epidemic prevention and control in the city is still very heavy," the Wuhan health authority said in a statement. "We must resolutely contain the risk of a rebound."

All of the latest cases were previously classified as asymptomatic, people who test positive for the virus and are capable of infecting others but do not show clinical signs such as a fever.

The number of asymptomatic cases in China is not known, as they only appear on the radar of health officials when they show up positive during tests conducted as part of contact tracing and health checks.

China does not include asymptomatic cases in its overall tally of confirmed cases, now at 82,918, until they exhibit signs of infection. Mainland China has reported 4,633 deaths.

Hundreds of asymptomatic cases in Wuhan, which was released on April 8 from a months-long lockdown, are being monitored.

The numbers of new cases reported in China since April have been small compared with the thousands confirmed every day in February, thanks to a nationwide regime of screening, testing and quarantine.

The government said on Friday cinemas, museums and other venues would gradually be reopened, though restrictions including mandatory reservations and a limit on numbers of visitors would be in place.

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The financial hub of Shanghai has reopened some night spots and Walt Disney Co reopened its Shanghai Disneyland park on Monday to a reduced number of visitors.

New outbreaks in China in the past two months have mainly developed in residential compounds or at hospitals.

The national health authority called for stronger protocols at laboratories handling samples of coronavirus strains and human nucleic acid tests, and said tests should be carried out under appropriate laboratory settings.

Transport of samples and material that could be infectious must be strictly managed and accounted for, the National Health Commission said.

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