Even as cities have hurried to test millions in just a few days amid outbreaks, China is requesting faster and more accessible COVID-19 testing services as part of its latest move to establish a zero-tolerance policy against the virus.
In China’s containment of domestically transmitted outbreaks over the last year, frequent testing, and occasionally mass testing, has become routine procedure, but health officials warn testing services remain substandard in some areas of the country during flare-ups.
“Small clusters and sporadic infections have arisen in some localities,” state media said on Tuesday, citing the National Health Commission, “exposing concerns such as unreasonable locations of nucleic acid testing agencies, inconvenient services, and delays in the release of results” (NHC).
Since Oct. 17, China has been dealing with a new wave of infections including approximately 200 locally transmitted symptomatic cases in 12 provinces. Many of those sick came from distant areas of northwest China, where there were less health resources than in big cities.
NHC said testing agencies should provide 24-hour services to the public and strive to have results within six hours for those who volunteer to be tested, according to state media reports.
NHC said in September that cities with over 5 million people should have the capacity to test everyone within three days.
While China is yet to approve self-testing kits for diagnosing COVID-19, swab tests that require professional labs to process samples are widely available.
Local governments have recently cut prices of swab tests, with certain tests charging as little as 13 yuan ($2.00) in the Chinese capital of Beijing.
Some officials in a small administrative division of the Chinese region of Inner Mongolia were reprimanded on Tuesday for bad management at sample collection sites that led to chaotic crowds during a division-wide testing drive.
Similar official admonishments were meted in the southern city of Zhangjiajie and in Yangzhou in the east during a cluster earlier this year.
Since the new coronavirus was found in late 2019, mainland China has reported 96,840 confirmed cases with symptoms, including both local and imported infections, with fatalities totalling 4,636.