Nucleic acid testing for people’s own good

A medical worker takes a swab sample from a resident for a nucleic acid test in Xicheng district, Beijing, May 5, 2022. (PHOTO / XINHUA)

The fight against the novel coronavirus in Beijing continues, with the capital reporting 50 new confirmed cases on Monday. To cut the chain of transmission of the more infectious Omicron variant of the virus, the city is implementing strict prevention and control measures, including halting operations of all businesses except for those that are vital for people's daily needs, requiring all people to work from home in certain districts considered risky, and conducting round after round of testing.

Since April 25, Beijing has conducted eight rounds of nucleic acid testing and more may be on their way, which has prompted some to question whether it is necessary to do so with such high frequency.

The answer is yes, as this is determined by the very features of the Omicron variant, which spreads faster than any previous variant, with a doubling infection rate of two to three days, according to the World Health Organization. Worse, it is very hard to detect the Omicron variant during the early stages of infection, which has made it necessary to conduct nucleic acid testing repeatedly to identify hidden infections as early as possible to contain the spread of the virus.

The government has devised a strategy of "early detection, early quarantine and early hospitalization" to win the battle against the COVID-19 pandemic, with mass nucleic acid testing being the most effective weapon in this race against time. Once a new case is detected, public health workers and officials will kick-start related work such as epidemiological investigation, tracing of close contacts and targeted lockdowns within the shortest possible time. This tried and tested formula has helped save thousands of lives, and generally kept the country's economic activities basically on a normal track.

Thanks to this dynamic clearing approach, and with the cooperation of local residents, Shenzhen in Guangdong province quickly resumed normal work and production at the end of March having suspended them earlier in the month, while community transmission has been contained in Jilin province since mid-April after lockdowns were imposed in March. There is therefore every reason to believe Beijing will return to normalcy in the near future.

The lockdowns come at a price of course, both socially and economically. But the effort is still worthwhile given the huge potential risks if the virus is allowed to spread unchecked. To avoid the worst-case scenario, it requires all residents to cooperate and make some short-term sacrifices for long-term gains. Each member of society must realize the severity of the challenge and do his/her due part by following the government's anti-pandemic guidelines and getting tested as required.