Ruili increases COVID-19 testing capacity

Updated: Nov 22, 2021 Print
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The disease control and prevention center in Ruili, Yunnan province has ramped up its capacity to launch nucleic acid testing, genome sequencing and epidemiological investigation, as part of efforts to stem the spread of the novel coronavirus, local officials said recently.

Liu Bang, director of the center, said on Sunday that the center is now capable of processing 21,000 vials of samples daily, jumping from 720 vials in early 2020.

With additional capacity offered by third-party institutions and other public testing institutions, the entire city can handle 75,000 sample vials daily, he said.

The latest outbreak hitting the township-level city that borders Myanmar was first detected on July 4. All infections have been found to be the highly transmissible Delta strain.

"Due to the variant's increased contagiousness, we have constantly upgraded and streamlined the entire procedure from sample collection, to transferring and testing, in order to be faster," he said during an interview.

Liu said the adoption of a smartphone application plays an effective role in speeding up taking samples. The mobile app documents information of residents and their testing history, replacing the old-fashioned and less efficient method of manually writing down information.

The center is now equipped with 11 sets of testing equipment, as well as a mobile testing laboratory, he added.

According to local authorities, Ruili, with a population of 280,000, has launched a regular testing regimen. Key groups in bordering villages and workers at quarantine sites should be tested every three days, market vendors every week, foreign residents and residents in key areas every two weeks and a citywide testing campaign will be rolled out every month.

Meanwhile, the center is the first township-level city to be capable of carrying out genome sequencing analysis locally.

Liu said provincial authorities have sent two genome sequencing machines to the center and dispatched experts to train local workers on sequencing techniques.

"We are able to return sequencing results within 48 hours," he said.

Liu Yonghua, deputy director of the center, said once a new infection is reported, epidemiological investigators are required to hand in a preliminary report on the patient's travel history within four hours, which will be verified by experts and finalized within 24 hours.

"At present, the investigation and the rollouts of virus control measures — such as restricting movements in affected neighborhoods — are conducted simultaneously," he said.

These measures will be adjusted to target specific buildings based on results of epidemiological investigation, he added.

"Community lockdowns are becoming more and more targeted," he said. "We are also striving to deploy more smart technologies to further improve our ability."

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