Mass testing to begin in Wuhan amid fears of virus comeback

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Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

In this photo taken Wednesday, April 1, 2020, residents walk past a sealed off neighborhood in Wuhan, central China's Hubei province. Authorities in Wuhan, the Chinese city where the coronavirus pandemic first broke out, have reportedly launched a plan to test everyone in the city of 11 million people in the next 10 days. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)

BEIJING – At least one community in the Chinese city of Wuhan was to begin testing residents for the new coronavirus Thursday after officials were given 10 days to test everyone in the city where the pandemic began, Chinese media reports said.

About 1,000 residents of a compound in Qiaokou district were to be tested in groups, according to a website of Hubei TV, the official provincial broadcaster.

No official announcement has been made, but district officials have confirmed receiving mass testing orders from the city’s coronavirus task force, the reports said. It remained unclear if everyone in the city of 11 million people would actually be tested and how such a monumental campaign would happen.

The short order came after the discovery last weekend of a cluster of six infected people at a residential compound in the city, the first new cases in more than a month. China has moved quickly to snuff out new outbreaks wherever they pop up, even as it relaxes restrictions on the movement of people and reopens public attractions to limited numbers of visitors.

Jilin province, which borders North Korea in China's northeast, has suspended all public transport and imposed other restrictions as it battles a fresh outbreak. In neighboring Heilongjiang province, which dealt with its own outbreak recently, the city of Harbin is quarantining anyone coming from Jilin for 14 days and banning them from hotels.

The sudden order appeared to confuse local officials. A man who answered the mayor's hotline in Wuhan said that districts have 10 days to arrange the testing in their respective jurisdictions. But a woman who answered later Wednesday said the tests must be done in the next 10 days.

A major state-owned news website, Jiemian, said it had obtained an implementation plan for the city's Wuchang district that said all residents should be tested by May 20.

Wuhan was the area hit hardest by the coronavirus in China. Of the 4,633 reported deaths nationwide, 4,512 were in Hubei province, including 3,869 in Wuhan, the provincial capital.