In schools and offices, China intensifies virus tests

BEIJING: Chinese tech giant Sina has set up a special room in its Beijing office for workers to be screened. One school took swab samples from students before allowing them to enter the classrooms. A traveler took the test before a trip to another province.

Businesses, schools and individuals across China are lining up to be tested for the virus as the country returns to normal life after largely mastering the epidemic.

Companies are increasing production of test kits with increasing demand despite lingering questions about their accuracy, while the government is pushing for more testing.

E-commerce titans Alibaba and JD have facilitated nucleic acid testing for individuals at various designated locations, including two Beijing hotels, at prices ranging from 200 yuan ($ 28) to 260 yuan ($ 36).

JD said his booking page has had more than three million visits since the service launched in mid-April.

And at Sina, the parent company of the Chinese platform Weibo, similar to Twitter, employees can be tested whenever they want in a specially reused room.

Where most tests have previously focused on those with symptoms, especially in the central city of Wuhan, where the virus emerged, demand is now skyrocketing in China.

Beijing has seen some of the most strident demands, and many took the test before business trips, and a transit service was established in one of the capital's districts.

At a private school run by the Hailiang Group in Zhuji in eastern Zhejiang province, some 20,000 students and teachers have taken the exam since April 13.

Samples were taken from the students in the playground as they were 1.5 meters (five feet) apart. They were only allowed to go to class after getting a negative result.

Although the epidemic in China has now been effectively controlled, we still have some concerns, the high school student said.

But school policies have completely reassured us, he added.

Shanghai writer Mao Li took the exam on Saturday for her next vacation in Zhejiang.

Her hotel required a nucleic acid test report because she had previously traveled to the southern city of Guangzhou, which was considered a relatively high-risk area a week ago.

Testing in Shanghai is very convenient, Mao Li said. I went to the test station and after queuing for 20 minutes it was my turn.

Meanwhile, in Guangzhou, more than 30,000 taxi drivers were evaluated last week along with 208,000 teachers and students.

According to the authorities, China had increased its capacity to produce more than four million test kits a day in early April.

But the quality of the evidence has come under scrutiny.

There is a 50 to 70 percent chance that the virus can be detected through nucleic acid tests, Wu Zunyou, head of the China Center for Disease Control, told state broadcaster CCTV this week.

The White House trade adviser, a strident critic of Beijing, angered China after accusing the country of sending false and bad evidence.

There are many of these tests coming from China now that they are of poor quality, false readings and the like, Navarro told Fox News on Monday as the United States sought to increase its own testing capacity.

The China National Medical Products Administration told AFP that the antibody tests meet safety requirements and quality controls, but that such products should be used in conjunction with nucleic acid tests.

While other countries are looking for virus and antibody test kits, Chinese companies insist their products are reliable.

Shao Junbin, president of Shanghai test kit supplier Liferiver, told AFP that his company's production capacity has increased 150 percent since production started in January, to reach 500,000 per day.

Liferiver, which claims a 90 percent accuracy rate, has exported kits to European countries, including France and Italy, two of the continent's worst affected nations.

And the head of Australian mining company Fortescue announced an agreement this week to import 10 million kits from Chinese genomics firm BGI Group at a lower price than rival suppliers.