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Global Times

Beijing opens drive-thru testing sites to find more asymptomatic COVID-19 infections

Global Times

By Ji Yuqiao and Liu Xin Source:Global Times Published: 2020/4/29 23:58:40

Beijing's Haidian district opened a drive-thru testing point for nucleic acid tests of the coronavirus with the whole process taking just two minutes and experts said the move would widen the testing scale in Beijing to find more asymptomatic COVID-19 infections ahead of a massive work resumption.

By making appointments online, Beijing residents who want to have nucleic acid tests can drive to the testing points in Haidian district to take their nasopharyngeal swabs. The test costs 260 yuan ($36.70).

Since the testing point was launched, there have been 448 samples collected and almost 100 people have had drive-thru tests every day, an employee of the Pony Testing International Group told the Global Times on Wednesday. The drive-thru testing point in Haidian District is run by the company.

The employee said the company's testing staff wear protective masks, goggles and one-piece protective clothing as well as double latex gloves when taking swabs, and each point has at least five members offering services.

Some drive-thru testing points overseas have had issues with too many cars blocking lanes, so the employee said "making appointments online can relieve such problems and the site is very wide with an area of more than 1,000 square meters and more than 60 parking spaces," so the site has not had traffic jams.

The accuracy of drive-thru testing would not be affected by using this system. "Actually, this method offers convenience to those who need to get nucleic acid tests and minimizes their contact with medical workers, which means it is safer," Zhou Zijun, a public health expert at Peking University, told the Global Times on Wednesday.

The drive-thru nucleic acid test was first launched in a city in South Korea at the end of February and has been copied by European countries and the US, according to ABC News.

The US has further expanded drive-thru testing locations to meet the growing need in communities nationwide, US media reported on Monday. The number of infected people in the US surpassed 1 million on Tuesday, making it the world's worst affected country.

According to a release Monday from Walgreens, the second-largest pharmacy chain in the US, the current drive-thru testing combines a nasal swab diagnostic test and antibody blood test.

Compared to antibody tests, which need to collect blood samples, nucleic acid tests are more convenient and also lower the risk of infection, Zhou said.

China started drive-thru tests later than some countries because of their different car ownership rates. "More people in these countries have private vehicles so they needed this method more urgently," Zhou said. "And they have bigger parking lots that can be converted into test spots."

Amid the massive resumption of work and production in China, quicker drive-thru testing on a larger-scale population can help identify more asymptomatic infections and reduce the risk of a possible second epidemic outbreak, he noted.

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