An outbreak in the coastal town of Qingdao has ended the streak of two months without infections in China and remembered that not even the most obsessive controls shield the coronavirus. The authorities have already activated the urgent protocol to use which will include tests on the nine million of its inhabitants in five days.
The National Health Commission reported six positive cases and six asymptomatic cases on Sunday night, which China does not count as confirmed. Everybody is linked to a hospital specializing in lung diseases that, like the homes of those infected, has already been sealed. As of early today, 140,000 tests on medical personnel and patients had already been completed, in the next three days they will be extended to five districts and the rest will be left for the next two. China disdains the detailed monitoring of the chain of infections when an outbreak arises and opts for urbi et orbe tests to eliminate any margin of error. The 11 million inhabitants of Wuhan, the epicenter of the pandemic, underwent the test in May after six cases were detected that had ended with several blank weeks. A later outbreak in the capital forced the same measure on millions of Pekingese.
Among those infected is a patient with tuberculosis who was admitted to the hospital more than a month ago, a nurse and her husband. This is a taxi driver and, although he has promised to always works with a mask and avoids talking to clients, the possibility that the virus has spread is not ruled out. It is unknown how he got to the hospital but it has transpired that infected travelers are treated there after arriving from abroad. The outbreak confirms that the danger comes from a world battered by the coronavirus when China has already bridged it. All travelers, whether they are Chinese in the diaspora or foreigners who had a residence permit prior to the pandemic, are subjected to a rigorous return protocol which includes three PCR tests and two weeks of confinement in a hotel room. Episodes like the one in Qingdao are unlikely to help make it more flexible.
Qingdao is a bustling coastal city in Shandong province, about 700 kilometers southeast of Beijing, attracting millions of tourists for its German colonial architecture, mild climate and seafood. There is its headquarters Tsingtao, the most famous Chinese beer, and the national version of Oktoberfest is celebrated. It is symptomatic that the outbreak arose from a few hundred foreign travelers subjected to strict control when in the holidays of the previous week there had been crowds of tourists arriving from all over the country without any social distance.
Two Qingdao dock workers have already tested positive in a routine check last month despite lacking symptoms. Authorities blamed the frozen fish shipments they had unloaded and banned imports from several countries. The Pekingese outbreak, located in a food market, is also suspected of originating from imported food.