China lowers nucleic acid test prices to ease public pressure
Published: Jan 31, 2021 02:09 PM

Photo: VCG

In the face of a booming demand for nucleic acid tests, especially as the travel rush of the Spring Festival holidays nears, Chinese health authorities and local governments have lowered the fees for private nucleic acid testing from the original 180 yuan ($28) to 50-80 yuan per sample, with some places even offering it for free through inclusion in public medical insurance.

Public institutions in 13 provinces so far, including Beijing, Tianjin, Hubei, Heilongjiang and Tibet, have lowered their nucleic acid testing fees. In nine provinces, the maximum price of nucleic acid testing in public institutions for a single sample was lowered to 80 yuan per sample, according to media reports.

Some areas, such as Chongqing Municipality, have offered the testing services free-of-charge. According to the official WeChat account of the Chongqing government on Saturday, 38 out of the 50-yuan price will be covered by medical insurance and the rest will be paid by the local financial department, so the individual does not need to pay a cent.

Previously, the prices of nucleic acid testing were generally around 100 yuan, and the prices of some tripartite institutions even exceeded 200 yuan. Based on the calculation of 100 yuan per sample, the testing service market will reach 60 billion yuan this year, industry experts said.

Although the testing prices are still much lower than in many other countries including the US, where the test can be up to $1,000, as media previously reported, the Chinese authorities have continued to cut the prices to ensure wider access to the services amid the booming demand for travel in February.

China's National Health Commission (NHC) announced on January 20 that people returning home during the Spring Festival holidays must have a negative nucleic acid test result taken within the previous seven days before they can return home.

It is estimated that 1.7 billion trips will be taken during the Spring Festival travel rush period this year, with an average of 40 million passengers per day, up more than 10 percent from 2020, according to the Ministry of Transport on January 20.

The reduction in prices of nucleic acid testing will help further ease the public pressure on testing, Zeng Yixin, deputy a director of the NHC, told a press conference of the State Council on Wednesday. 

As an important part of epidemic prevention and control, China has always attached great importance to the nucleic acid testing and its accessibility.

As early as June last year, the state medical insurance administration issued the notice, requesting further improvement to the detection capability of the novel coronavirus, including the coverage of test fees in medical insurance.

By the end of 2020, more than half of China's provinces had lowered the prices of novel coronavirus nucleic acid testing in public hospitals.

Against the backdrop of sporadic outbreaks in some parts of the country and the travel rush for the upcoming Spring Festival holidays, the demand for testing is expected to reach a historical peak, industry experts said.