Beijing’s mass testing for coronavirus to enter 'fast track'

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BEIJING: Beijing's mass testing for the new coronavirus will soon enter a "fast track" as the city's testing capacity expands, a senior municipal health official said yesterday, following a sudden return of Covid-19 nearly two weeks ago.

The city of more than 20 million residents reported its first case in the latest outbreak on June 11. The infections were linked to the sprawling Xinfadi market in the south-west of Beijing, which had until then reported no new cases for nearly two months.

In the 12 days since, 249 people have been infected in the worst outbreak in Beijing since the virus was identified at a seafood market in the central Chinese city of Wuhan late last year. This includes the 13 cases on Monday.

Beijing can now administer more than 300,000 nucleic acid tests a day, from 40,000 in March, Beijing Municipal Health Commission deputy director Zhang Hua said.

Beijing took samples from 2.95 million people between June 12 and June 22, Mr Zhang said. "The strategy of Beijing's nucleic acid screening is mainly based on the level of risk and on severity," Mr Zhang said, when asked if everyone in Beijing would be tested.

Testing will be done in batches and according to the profile of individuals, he said.

"We'll give priority to testing high-risk groups in Xinfadi and other markets involved in the outbreak as well as surrounding communities," Mr Zhang said.

"On this basis, we've tested workers in restaurants, supermarkets, marketplaces, as well as residents in high-risk neighbourhoods. Food delivery workers and parcel couriers have also undergone large-scale testing."

Meanwhile, South Korea reported 46 new cases yesterday.

Social distancing rules were relaxed after a public holiday in early May and the country has since been returning largely to normal. But in the last month, it has seen around 35 to 50 cases a day, mostly in the Seoul metropolitan area where half of the population lives.

Of the 46 new cases reported yesterday - taking the country's total to 12,484 - 30 were people arriving from overseas. - REUTERS, AFP