New cases spur plan for mass testing . . .
Wuhan, the original epicenter of China’s COVID-19 outbreak, lifted its lockdown early last month, allowing inbound and outbound traffic to resume while retaining many restrictions on movement and gathering. Things had been looking up for Wuhan after the city of 11 million recorded 36 straight days of zero infections. But that streak was broken on May 9 with one confirmed positive case, followed by five more on May 11. Hours after news of the cluster infection broke, a party official was removed from his post for “failing to quarantine effectively.” That day, an internal document mandating mass testing for all Wuhan residents circulated on social media. Government officials later verified its authenticity.
Plans for “10 days of battle” challenged . . .
According to the plan, health officials in each district will work with private businesses to conduct nucleic acid screenings for all residents within 10 days, though some districts will start later than others. Wuhan had tested a million residents by the end of April, which leaves 10 million more to be tested in the coming days. In addition to the practical difficulties for test makers in rapidly scaling up production, testing will cost the city C$359 million, according to an estimate by Caixin magazine. Not everyone is on board with the plan: some Chinese health experts question the merits of the campaign. Citing concerns over false negatives, some say that testing people in communities with little transmission will “harass the people and waste money.”
Hints of a second wave amidst legitimacy crisis . . .
On the same weekend the six new coronavirus cases were confirmed, hundreds of Wuhan residents gathered to protest plans to build an electrical substation. Protestors complained that authorities had been using disease prevention as an excuse to stonewall opposition to the planned project for the past month. Videos on social media show that many protesters were beaten by the police. Moreover, despite Beijing’s efforts to retell its COVID-19 story in a positive light both at home and abroad, issues with government transparency persist. As recent reports of new local infections in cities in China’s northeastern region surface, how the central and local governments react may prove critical for both public health and political legitimacy.