E China’s Shandong Province urges mass testing for COVID-19 in Qingdao after 3 asymptomatic carriers found

By Liu Caiyu and Leng Shumei Source: Global Times Published: 2020/10/11 20:58:40

File Photo: Xinhua

East China's Shandong Province urged the province’s coastal city Qingdao to launch mass testing for COVID-19 as soon as possible after three asymptomatic carriers tested positive in the city. They are thought to have contracted the virus at the local hospital caring for imported cases. 

The Shandong provincial government held a meeting on Sunday and said that they would set up headquarters in Qingdao for epidemic prevention and control work. 

They urged the city to carry out mass testing of close contacts and release information to the public in timely manner. The provincial authority also said that they would mobilize resources across the province to support the testing and investigation in Qingdao.   

The three asymptomatic COVID-19 patients detected in the coastal city of Qingdao, East China's Shandong Province, unnerved Chinese people on Sunday as fear rose again over loopholes in handling imported cases.

But local medical experts and an epidemiologist told the Global Times that the possibility of hospital infection is low, and they assured the public that all-out efforts by the government will ensure that Qingdao overcomes the problem.

Local health authorities said that the specific source of infections is still under investigation but the three silent carriers were all traced to the Qingdao Chest Hospital, which is a designated medical institution for COVID-19 patients from overseas. The hospital has been closed for new patients, media reported on Sunday.

A medical worker at the Qingdao Chest Hospital told the Global Times on Sunday that the chance of the three new cases having been caused by cross-infection with imported cases is minimal, as the inpatient department for COVID-19 patients is separate from the departments for other patients. 

"No other infections have been found so far. We are cooperating with local health authorities in an epidemiological investigation," the person said, declining to reveal more details and her name. 

The three domestic asymptomatic infections triggered ripple effects in the city, where some blocks of residential compounds and hospitals where the three people lived and visited were locked down, local health authorities said. 

The coastal city of Dalian in Northeast China's Liaoning Province on Sunday issued a travel alert ordering local residents not to visit Qingdao and to report their travel history since September 27. 

After netizens expressed concerns over loopholes in handling imported cases, Zeng Guang, chief epidemiologist with the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, tried to ease the concerns, noting that China has gained vast experience in fighting either large-scale or localized outbreaks. 

"Imported cases are still a major risk for China but the anti-epidemic strategy will also get Qingdao through the difficulties with all-out efforts," Zeng told the Global Times, just like how the governments led through other regional outbreaks in Beijing, Xinjiang and Dalian.

As a designated hospital for mild and asymptomatic COVID-19 patients, the Qingdao Chest Hospital conducts very strict management over fever patients, as do other fever clinics in the city, the Global Times learned from a Qingdao doctor who preferred to remain anonymous. 

Febrile patients have to undergo thorough clinical screening, including complete blood count, chest CT scan, and nucleic acid test for SARS-Cov-2 according to their condition, before they can leave the hospitals, according to the doctor.

The National Health Commission reported on Sunday that a total of 21 imported COVID-19 cases were discovered on Saturday across the country. 

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