Wuhan Tested Nearly 7 Million People in 12 Days to Prevent Second Coronavirus Wave, Health Officials Say

Chinese health officials in the city at the center of the initial coronavirus outbreak say they tested nearly 7 million people in 12 days to quash fears of a second wave.

Local health commission officials in Wuhan released data showing 6.68 million people underwent nucleic acid tests as part of a mass-testing effort to suppress concerns over a second wave of COVID-19 cases in the Hubei region of China. According to analysis conducted by Bloomberg News Tuesday, 206 people who were tested were listed as asymptomatic cases. Wuhan began testing its entire population of 11 million people "at all costs" on May 12, just days after new infections emerged following 76 days of lockdown.

Last week, China's National Health Commission reported the country had its first day of zero new confirmed cases, a first since the outbreak began in late 2019. Chinese health officials said there were only two suspected cases of coronavirus in all of mainland China, which contains nearly 1.45 billion people.

Speaking at annual legislative meetings in Beijing Monday, Chinese President Xi Jinping encouraged the aggressive testing effort to "not ruin the hard-won achievement" of containing the virus and reopening the country's economy.

The Wuhan Health Commission reported that on a single day, Saturday, May 23, the city conducted tests on over 1.1 million people. The pace of testing rapidly increased between May 12 and May 24 as health labs and companies across the city multiplied the number of people they tested 26 times over. By comparison, the United States tested fewer than 1 million people across the country during the entire month of March, according to the COVID Tracking Project.

The New York Times reported Tuesday that testing had reached 90 percent of the entire city and laboratories in Wuhan were processing as many as 1.47 million tests by Friday. By comparison, the state of New York - with a population of about 20 million - has only tested 1.7 million people since March 4.

Wuhan's massive testing effort preceded high-profile National People's Congress (NPC) lawmaker meetings in Beijing this week.

The Trump administration vowed in early April that 5 million tests would be available to Americans each day, but later backtracked on that number which was reduced to 2 million. But labs and data compiled by the COVID Tracking Project revealed the U.S. averaged at most 220,000 tests each day by the last week of April.

Prior to Wuhan's intense testing effort of nearly 7 million people beginning on May 12, many companies based in the sprawling city of 11 million residents were already requiring employees to be tested to gain access to their workplaces. Several companies in Wuhan required workers to have their throats swabbed or to have blood drawn before returning to work after several months in lockdown.

"We are not resuming work until we receive the negative results of all workers," said Ke Jianjun, an official at Kone Elevators Co., who helped workers line up in protective suits as they were tested in a tent outside their Wuhan office in early May, Reuters reported. "We cannot take the risk of restarting business if anyone is infected or suspected."

Wuhan coronavirus lockdown
Chinese health officials in the city at the center of the initial coronavirus outbreak say they tested nearly 7 million people in 12 days in order to quash fears of a second wave. Stringer/Getty