China: Number of COVID-19 cases falls below 100; Wuhan launches massive drive to test 11 mn people

K J M Varma

Beijing/Wuhan, May 15 (PTI) The number of patients undergoing treatment for COVID-19 in China has fallen below 100 for the first time since January, even as Wuhan -- the epicentre of the deadly virus -- has launched a massive drive to test all its 11 million residents to detect growing number of asymptomatic cases, officials said on Friday.

According to figures released by China's National Health Commission (NHC) on Friday, the number of coronavirus patients undergoing treatment for the disease came down to 91 as of Thursday.

Officials said it is a major landmark for the country where the virus originated.

The virus has so far claimed 4,633 lives in China, the NHC said.

China has reported 15 new COVID-19 cases, including 11 asymptomatic ones, taking the total number of coronavirus infections in the country to 82,933, the health officials said on Friday.

Of the total 82,933 cases, 91 patients are undergoing treatment and 78,209 had been discharged from hospitals after recovery, they said.

The total number of asymptomatic coronavirus infections in China now stands at 619, including 492 in Wuhan.

Asymptomatic cases refer to people who are tested COVID-19 positive but develop no symptoms such as fever, cough or sore throat. However, they pose a risk of spreading the disease to others.

Though the number of coronavirus cases has fallen, the country continues to struggle with asymptomatic cases, which officials on Friday said has prompted the Chinese authorities to go for mass testing in Wuhan, where the virus first emerged in December last year before it spread across the world and wreaked havoc.

Mass nucleic acid testing on all residents in Wuhan for COVID-19 will help protect people's health and fully resume social and economic order in the city, Zeng Yixin, deputy head of the NHC told reporters here on Friday.

The mass testing is conducive to learning more about the scope of the epidemic in the city and carrying out targeted epidemic control and prevention measures, he said.

Conducting nucleic acid tests on all Wuhan residents is no easy task in terms of mobilisation and organisation, Zeng said.

'We need to make sure people who have been tested earlier do not have close contact with those who will be tested later, and the accuracy of the test shall not be undermined by the large number of tests,' he said.

Wuhan has conducted nucleic acid tests on more than three million residents earlier and will carry out the test on all residents that have not been tested before, according to a notice issued by the local authorities on Thursday.

Residents living in old communities, populous communities and communities with previous confirmed cases will be tested first, it said, adding that the local government will shoulder the costs for the tests. PTI KJV SCY