Monday, November 28, 2022

Several Chinese Cities Further Refine Measures of Mass COVID Testing

Constant exploration helps China seek more scientific approach to tackle increasing cases

By GT staff reporters

Nov 28, 2022 11:33 PM

Photo: VCG

Several Chinese cities including Beijing, Guangzhou, Chongqing and Zhengzhou have further optimized their anti-COVID-19 measures with some places allowing residents without social activities to be free from mass testing. It is a move to take more targeted, science-based actions to curb flare-ups, as the country reported daily new cases of more than 30,000 in the past week.

The Chinese mainland on Sunday reported 3,748 local confirmed COVID-19 cases and 36,304 local asymptomatic carriers, according to the National Health Commission on Monday.

Several districts in Guangzhou, South China's Guangdong Province have advised residents to take nucleic acid testing based on their needs. Guangzhou's Yuexiu and Liwan district authorities announced on Sunday night and early Monday morning that the elderly who have been staying at home, students who take daily online classes, employees who work from home and other people without community activities don't need to participate in mass screening on Monday if they don't need to go outside. It aims to reduce infection risks and save resources.

"It was the first time that I saw such an announcement that people without community activities don't need to take part in mass screening, which from an epidemiological point of view is a very scientific approach that other regions can consider similar adoption," Zhuang Shilihe, a Guangzhou-based medical expert who closely follows public health issues, told the Global Times on Monday.

This measure can help relieve the great pressure on daily testing and reduce the infection risk for those who usually stay at home since group gatherings at testing spots may increase the infection risk, Zhuang said.

Along with Guangzhou, some other cities are optimizing prevention measures in a more precise way. In Southwest China's Chongqing Municipality, residents who live communities without positive cases in the latest five days don't need to participate in the latest round of mass nucleic acid testing.

Zhengzhou in Central China's Henan Province has scientifically classified high-risk regions and suspended centralized screening in other low-risk regions. In Shanghai, free and normalized nucleic acid detection has been extended to December 31 this year. For the convenience of local residents, communities are required to arrange testing services at least twice a week for them.

A Wuhan resident surnamed Lin told the Global Times on Monday that she and many of her friends living in the districts of Jianghan and Jiang'an felt free to get in and out of their residential compounds. "From this morning, some residential compounds declared the end of static management," Lin said.

These moves are hailed by experts and residents, who said that the constant exploration of local authorities and heated discussion of experts and the public can help China seek more a scientific approach to tackle increasing cases.

China released a circular on further optimizing COVID-19 responses, announcing 20 prevention and control measures on November 11. The authorities have stressed that optimizing and adjusting the measures does not mean loosening prevention and control, nor is it a lifting of COVID-19 restrictions or "lying flat" in fighting the virus.

In regions with no infections, nucleic acid tests should be conducted among people in high-risk positions or in key groups based on the ninth edition of China's COVID-19 control protocols, and it is not allowed to expand test coverage, according to the circular.

Beijing will resolutely implement the ninth edition of the COVID-19 control protocols and 20 prevention and control measures, to carry out targeted and classified prevention and control measures based on the different epidemic situations to curb the virus in a scientific and precise manner, Xu Hejian, a spokesperson for the Beijing Municipal Government, said at Monday's press briefing.

All efforts have been made to put people and their lives above everything else. In the face of Omicron BF.7, which has the strongest infection ability across the family of Omicron sub-variants in China, Beijing has adopted optimized measures in community COVID-19 prevention and control. The temporary control will be carried out for no more than 24 hours in principle, and it is strictly prohibited to block firefighting access and community entrances with hard fences, Beijing authorities said on Sunday.

The topic of "several regions adjusting COVID-19 screening policies" gained wide attention on social media, getting more than 650 million views on Chinese Twitter-like Sina Weibo on Monday as of press time. The optimized policies were welcomed by many netizens. There were also some other discussions such as whether COVID-19 positive cases should be quarantined at home.

The ninth edition of the protocols said positive cases should be placed under centralized quarantine or sent to designated hospitals for treatment.

Li Dongzeng, a medical expert at Beijing's Xiaotangshan Hospital, has seen some elderly people who were infected with COVID-19 and developed severe symptoms, exacerbating their underlying conditions, according to the Beijing Daily on Monday.

For asymptomatic carriers, most people are willing to stay at home for medical observation, Li said.

It would be ideal if the policy is able to be targeted to one specific family or individual, Li said. However, it requires health workers to assess the community environment, household ventilation, sewerage and waste treatment factors to ensure that surrounding residents are safe, Li noted.

"The reality is that there is no reliable method for assessment and many communities are not able to do so, meaning the strategy of centralized quarantine is a practical consideration," Li said.

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