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Call to tighten China discharge criteria as some test positive again

This article is more than 12 months old

BEIJING: Worrying cases of recovered coronavirus patients in China testing positive again for the infection have raised questions among doctors about the criteria being used for discharging people from hospital.

China has seen 80,000 cases of the coronavirus since last year. While nearly 3,000 people have died, more than 47,000 have recovered and been discharged from hospital.

But weeks later, doctors are reporting some people have tested positive for the pathogen again.

This has raised disturbing questions about the true state of people's recovery and their potential to spread the virus without showing symptoms and has led to calls for more stringent scrutiny of people being discharged.

At the moment, patients in China are discharged after two negative nucleic acid tests, taken at least 24 hours apart, and indications of clinical recovery, including resolution of symptoms, according to the National Health Commission.

That is in line with World Health Organisation recommendations published in January.

But Dr Zhang Zhan, a doctor at Renmin Hospital of Wuhan University's Department of Respiratory and Critical Care, said the requirement should be raised to three tests.


Dr Zhang said she and some fellow doctors recently decided to delay the discharge of 18 patients even though they had met the two-test requirement.

Thirteen of them came up positive for the coronavirus when tested again, she said.

Dr Qi Xiaolong, professor of medicine and assistant dean of the First Hospital of Lanzhou University, told Reuters one more additional test might still not be enough.

"As far as I know, some hospitals in China have adopted three negative results as a discharge standard for a long time, but even so, there are currently cases of some of them testing positive," Dr Qi said.

Experts say there are several ways discharged patients could fall ill with the virus again.

Convalescing patients might not build up enough antibodies to develop immunity to the virus and are being infected again.

The virus could also be "biphasic", meaning it lies dormant before creating new symptoms. - REUTERS