Asymptomatic woman tests positive for COVID19

By Liu Caiyu Source:Global Times Published: 2020/3/23 22:03:40

Photo: Xinhua

A woman who came back from the UK and went through Beijing customs with no symptoms was confirmed as having COVID-19 three days later in East China's Shandong Province. It sparked worries about the "cunning" virus as well as about loopholes in screening that could pose a danger despite efforts to control imported cases. 

The woman, surnamed Yu, did not declare any symptoms or COVID-19 contact history when she reached Beijing airport on March 17. Yu did not belong to the category of high-risk passengers, Gao Ruifeng, the deputy head of the Beijing Customs, said on Monday at a press conference. 

Yu is an 18-year-old Chinese student who studies in the UK. She tested positive for COVID-19 on March 20 while under quarantine in Shandong Province.

The woman could be a potential virus carrier but still in her incubation period when she entered Beijing customs, which is why she showed no symptoms at all, Wang Peiyu, deputy head of Peking University's school of public health, told the Global Times on Monday. 

"It is a very cunning virus. It is difficult to detect asymptomatic patients. She might be infected with the virus on her way back to China but she had no idea," said Wang Hongwei, a professor at Renmin University of China's school of public administration and policy. 

The incubation period for a COVID-19 patient is usually 14 days, but in some extremely rare cases their incubation period reached 30 days, studies showed. 

A virus carrier is contagious, which means such cases could pose risks to the domestic epidemic prevention and control effort and the fight against imported cases, observers said, suggesting greater port entry vigilance. 

The student flew via Russia from the UK and reached Beijing Capital Airport at 9:50 on March 17. She showed no symptoms when she went through the customs quarantine at the airport. Her body temperature was normal, at 36.6 C, and it did not trigger alarms. 

After getting out of the airport, Yu was taken to the new China International Exhibition Center in Shunyi district, where she had her temperature taken for a second time and it was again normal. Yu was then sent to Beijing Southern Railway Station to take a train back to Jinan, the capital city of Shandong Province. She went into quarantine upon arrival. 

Regarding the fact that Yu did not take a nucleic acid test at Beijing customs despite coming from the UK via Russia, experts said Beijing should expand its scope for screening passengers from epidemic-stricken countries and regions in the port entry process. 

Four types of people must take the nucleic acid test before entry: those with COVID-19 symptoms, those with an epidemiological history, those showing signs of infection, and those who have a necessity for the test, according to Beijing quarantine and inspection rules.

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