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Saturday 27 February 2021
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One-third of Chinese city of nine million people swabbed for Covid-19 in two days

There has been a small number of confirmed cases in Qingdao in recent days.

Health workers take swab samples from citizens for Covid-19 tests in Qingdao yesterday.
Health workers take swab samples from citizens for Covid-19 tests in Qingdao yesterday.
Image: Li Ziheng/Xinhua News Agency/PA Images

MORE THAN THREE million swabs have been taken in a matter of days in Qingdao, the Chinese port city where a minor coronavirus outbreak elicited a sweeping health response.

Queues for testing stretched deep into last night across the eastern city, which detected six Covid-19 cases the day before but swiftly swung into action to head off a wider outbreak.

In scenes which contrast with the efforts of many other nations to establish effective testing regimes, Qingdao health workers in protective gear set up tents to take samples across neighbourhoods, where parents brought toddlers for testing.

Residents said on social media that community representatives informed them of their nearest testing stations, with local districts helping to organise sample collection for mass testing.

“As of 8am … our city has taken 3.08 million samples for nucleic testing, with 1.11 million results received,” Qingdao’s health commission said in a statement today.

In addition to six people with symptoms, six asymptomatic cases have been detected so far.

The city declared it aims to test its entire population — around 9.4 million — within five days of the detection of the first cases at a hospital on Sunday.

It was not immediately clear how fast results could be processed, although China has paraded its rapid testing capacities during previous minor outbreaks.

China’s ruling Communist Party is desperate to show its ability to manage the pandemic to its citizens — as well as to foreign audiences — after it emerged in the central city of Wuhan.

The country has bounced back since the virus emerged late last year and forced widespread lockdowns that hammered the world’s second-largest economy.

China is also desperate to be the first nation to produce a coronavirus vaccine, with several companies in final-stage trials.

Vaccine setback

The pandemic has claimed more than one million lives worldwide, and spurred breakneck efforts to develop vaccines and effective treatments.

Some have made it to late-stage clinical testing, but the optimism was dented yesterday when Johnson & Johnson announced it had temporarily halted its 60,000-patient trial because of an unexplained illness in one participant.

There are 10 firms conducting Phase 3 trials of their candidates globally, including Johnson & Johnson.

The pharma giant has been awarded about $1.45 billion in US funding under Operation Warp Speed, championed by President Donald Trump, who is keen for a political boost ahead of the November election with a coronavirus breakthrough.

Critics have excoriated Trump for his handling of the crisis, with more known infections and deaths in the United States than anywhere else in the world.

Trump was sidelined from the campaign trail for 10 days after he got Covid-19, but returned to the stage last night.

“I went through it and now they say I’m immune … I feel so powerful,” Trump told a cheering crowd in Florida, few of whom wore masks.

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His claim of immunity is unproven.

© AFP 2020

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