China’s daily COVID-19 nucleic acid testing capacity hits 4.84 million

A medical worker samples throat swab for a citizen in China’s Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region on July 31. Photo by Li Zhenghu/People’s Daily Online

China’s daily COVID-19 nucleic acid testing capacity hit 4.84 million at the end of July, and 160 million tests have already been done nationwide, said Vice-Minister of the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) Wang Jiangping on Aug. 5.

The technology of China’s nucleic acid testing and performance of relevant products are as good as those in developed countries and regions, with some in the leading position, Wang said, adding that the overall accuracy rate of the testing kits is higher than 95 percent.

As of the end of last month, around 38,000 staff members at 4,946 medical facilities across China had credentials to provide testing, according to Wang. Nearly 200 million testing kits and 12,000 testing machines have been distributed nationwide to hospitals, disease control centers, customs and third-party testing agencies.

Bao Xianhua, director of the Department of Research Commercialization and Regional Innovation, China’s Ministry of Science and Technology, introduced that the R&D of test reagents was one of the major tasks, and a special group was established to finish the work. A batch of test reagents and products were developed rapidly according to the demands in different phases, he added.

An emergency program was initiated when COVID-19 broke out, and six nucleic acid test reagents were approved and released only half a month later. The program constantly improved the performance of Chinese test reagents and relevant devices.

At present, the novel coronavirus can be detected at a lowest concentration of 100 copies per mL, and the overall accuracy rate is above 95 percent.

It used to take 4 hours to get the test result, but now it takes around an hour, and the fasted reagent can do it within 30 minutes, which established a “samples in, results out” mechanism and also significantly improved convenience and safety.

Apart from small and portable testing kits, China has also developed products capable of detecting 6 respiratory viruses including the novel coronavirus. Besides, a batch of anti-body products have been released, which provides results in 15 minutes. The combined use of nucleic acid testing and anti-body testing can further improve the accuracy rate.

According to a MIIT platform that tracks the supply of seven test reagent and device manufacturers, these manufacturers have offered a total of 700,000 reagents and over 1,400 sets of devices.

Wang said China is still faced an arduous task to guard against imported cases and a rebound in indigenous cases due to possible flu that goes with the falling temperature and the restoration of exit & entry. The MIIT will focus on the four aspects – construction of resting capability, training of testing personnel, scientific research and approval, and production guarantee of testing reagents and devices, Wang added.

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