XIANNING, China (Reuters) – Residents of the Chinese city of Xianning who wanted to travel after a two-month ban were faced with an unexpected hurdle just hours after the border was opened. They had to pass a new rapid test to show that they didn’t have a corona virus.
Dozens rushed to the city’s largest hospital, but were told that the hospital was no longer performing nucleic acid testing and advised to try hospitals in nearby villages or towns.
The test uses throat swab genetic material and typically takes a few hours to get a result.
“If we can’t get the nucleic acid test, how can we go? I can’t get on the train, I bought my ticket, but I can̵
Shen, who plans to return to work on a Shanghai subway construction project, rushed to Xianning Central Hospital around 4 a.m. on Thursday, hoping to get a nucleic acid test, but was informed by the doctors there that they stopped doing tests and he had to find an alternative.
Signs on the glass doors of the hospital, the largest in the city, said people should go to village or city hospitals to have the tests done.
Xianning announced the test request in its official WeChat account on Wednesday, the day Hubei Province, the epicenter of the Chinese Coronavirus outbreak and home to 60 million people, canceled much of its lockdown transportation.
The lifting of the Hubei lock is an important milestone in the fight against the corona virus in China. More than 80% of COVID-19 cases and 96% of mainland China deaths were in Hubei.
The provincial capital of Wuhan, where the virus first appeared at the end of last year and in which 54% of cases occurred, is blocked until April 8.
The order to use the rapid test came after news that a man who had left town last week had later tested positive when he returned to work in Guangdong Province.
The lifting of the ban was accompanied by both relief and concern. Several people in Xianning told Reuters that they were upset by the case of the man who had traveled to Guangdong.
“My boss in Shanghai called me a few times and asked me to get out as soon as possible. He even prepared proof of resumption of work for me. He told me what processes you need to do. We will help you. Just think about how you can get out, ”said Shen.
Shen from eastern Jiangsu Province was trapped in Xianning after traveling to the city to see a house he had bought there.
PLUG, INSIDE OR OUT
Millions of people were trapped or stuck outside Hubei when China introduced draconian measures to curb the spread of the coronavirus, an approach that has proven effective. In the past few days, new domestic cases have been reduced to zero, even if the imported cases still exist.
On Thursday morning, around 30 people lined up in front of the Xianning Central Hospital. All had to fill out a form stating whether they had recently returned from overseas or were in high-risk areas.
Some in the queue said they would queue up for a nucleotide test, but were unsure where to do it. Some tried to go back to work in Guangdong Province.
“I saw on Douyin that a few hundred people came here yesterday, there were a lot of people,” said He Ting, referring to the Chinese version of TikTok.
She has been stuck in Xianning since the New Year in January, trying to return to work in the southwestern city of Chengdu, Sichuan Province. In addition, she was unable to pass the hospital test
“I’m trying to find another way,” she said.
The Xianning Yongan Health Service Center, a municipal health center, was home to over a hundred people in and around its gates. A long line wriggled around people clutching paper notes with numbers. Some said they were told the results would take a day or two.
“I came here to queue up, but they told me I had to register and then wait for a call when it was my turn,” said a man as he got on his electric scooter to leave.
“I have to go back to my job in Dongguan. But now I don’t know when to go. ”
Reporting by Brenda Goh; Writing by Tony Munroe; Edited by Michael Perry