China and its tests

With the return to work, in schools and universities, China has had to take great precautions to ensure control of the epidemic and economic recovery. On April 22, the government decided to launch a major testing campaign. On May 8, it authorized 30 types of tests, 19 nucleic acid and 11 blood tests to meet domestic and foreign demands. 

China test coronavirus

The health authorities must constantly adapt to the evolution of the virus, such as the appearance of new phenomena: asymptomatic contagious people, cured patients who become positive again (复阳), Chinese returning to countries carrying the virus.

Screening centres use three types of tests: 
1. A genetic sequencing test. It is highly reliable, but expensive, over 600 USD and the results are slow to come out.
2. A nucleic acid test, relatively reliable even though it can miss positive cases. It is the most widely used type of test, particularly because of its cost, between 10 and 30 USD.
3. Antibody blood test, rapid, allows the detection of infected and cured people. This test is more a contribution to the nucleic test. It does not determine whether the patient tested positive is contagious. It cannot replace the nucleic test.  Cost between 8 and 15 USD.

Screening centres have been multiplied. Wuhan, for example, added 111 new centres to its 211 at the end of April. Beijing increased from 3 to 53. Hospitals have tightened discharge conditions. A CT scan and a stool test must now confirm the patient’s recovery. Customs has also increased the number of laboratories and the number of staff dedicated to controls. Many companies, such as Huawei or the developer Vanke, have their employees tested.

The demand for tests is therefore very high both in and outside China. The Caixin site estimates the foreign demand at 1.2 billion while daily production is 9.02 million tests. It will be difficult to meet this demand for massive testing in China, but at present, the extent of the difficulty cannot yet be quantified. How many tests is China missing?

Article consulted: 新冠检测挑战

7 May 2020

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