BEIJING: A thousand days since the World Health Organization (WHO) was told of a “viral pneumonia” in central China, many countries have returned to pre-COVID-19 life. Not so China itself – in cities big or small, routine polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing is the new normal.
On Dec 31, 2019, the WHO’s office in China was informed of cases of pneumonia of an unknown cause in the city of Wuhan, in Hubei province. Since then, the virus that is now known as SARS-CoV-2 has evolved into the less virulent Omicron variant, and most of the world has moved on.
After Shanghai was locked down in April and May to contain the highly transmissible Omicron strain, regular testing for the virus has become a fact of everyday life to ensure fast detection and quarantine of the infected and close contacts. It’s a policy that has been controversial and also a drain on public finances.