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Testing woes slow China’s coronavirus response: Report

Testing woes slow China’s coronavirus response: Report

BEIJING - Ms Yang Zhongyi was still waiting on Monday for a coronavirus test in Wuhan two weeks after she started to show signs of a fever, even though doctors privately told her family that she almost certainly has been infected, her son Zhang Changchun said.

Ms Yang, 53, is just one of many Wuhan inhabitants finding it difficult to get tested or receive treatment for the new form of coronavirus, which authorities say has infected more than 4,500 people and killed at least 106 in China.

Ms Yang has been unable to gain full-time admission to a hospital, her son said. She has been put on drips in unquarantined areas at four separate hospitals in the city to treat her deteriorating lungs, he said, while he is doing what he can to get her tested or admitted full-time.

"My brother and I have been queuing at the hospital every day. We go at six and seven in the morning, and queue for the whole day, but we don't get any new answers," Mr Zhang said.

"Every time the responses are the same: 'There's no bed, wait for the government to give a notice, and follow the news to see what's going on.' The doctors are all very frustrated too."


The new form of coronavirus was first identified as the cause of death of a 61-year-old man in Wuhan on Jan 10, when China shared gene information on the virus with other countries.

Some, such as Japan and Thailand, started testing travellers from China for the virus within three days.


However, testing kits for the disease were not distributed to some of Wuhan's hospitals until about Jan 20, an official at the Hubei Provincial Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (Hubei CDC) said.

Before then, samples had to be sent to a laboratory in Beijing for testing, a process that took three to five days to get results, according to Wuhan health authorities.

During that gap, hospitals in the city reduced the number of people under medical observation from 739 to just 82, according to data compiled by Reuters from Wuhan health authorities, and no new cases were reported inside China.

Despite the lack of reliable data and testing capacity in Wuhan, Chinese authorities assured citizens in the days after the virus had been identified that it was not widely transmissible.

In previous weeks, it had censored negative online commentary about the situation, and arrested eight people it accused of being "rumour spreaders".

"The doctor didn't wear a mask, we didn't know how to protect ourselves... no one told us anything," a 45-year-old woman surnamed Chen said.


Her aunt was confirmed to have the virus on Jan 20, five days after she was hospitalised.

"I posted my aunt's photos on (Chinese social media site) Weibo and the police called the hospital authorities. They told me to take it down."

Seven of the largest hospitals in Wuhan are now equipped with testing kits for the virus, which in theory deliver results within a day, the Hubei CDC official said.

But four people said they were refused tests because the process involved a complex reporting system including hospital, district and city health authorities and disease control officials.

For the latest updates on the Wuhan virus, visit here.

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