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China's Qingdao Covid cluster traced back to two dock workers, officials say

October 16, 2020. Summarized by summa-bot.

A health worker takes a swab from a resident to be tested for the COVID-19 coronavirus in Qingdao, in China's eastern Shandong province on October 12, 2020. (Photo by STR / AFP) / China OUT (Photo by STR/AFP via Getty Images)

A coronavirus outbreak in the Chinese city of Qingdao, which prompted mass testing of millions of residents, has been traced back to two dock workers, authorities said on Friday.

(CNN)A coronavirus outbreak in the Chinese city of Qingdao, which prompted mass testing of millions of residents, has been traced back to two dock workers, authorities said on Friday.

A total of 12 locally transmitted cases were reported last weekend at the Qingdao Chest Hospital, sparking fears of a wider outbreak.

City officials took immediate action and in just four days, they tested more than 10 million people, according to Qingdao's Information Office.

The two dock workers, named Dong and Chen, tested positive for Covid-19 on September 24 and were sent for treatment and quarantine at Qingdao Chest Hospital, according to city officials.

Qingdao is a large port city on China's eastern coast, home to numerous beaches and popular with tourists.

Already, heads are rolling; the director of the Qingdao Health Commission and the president of the Qingdao Chest Hospital were removed from their posts on Thursday, according to a statement from the city government.

There have been a few flare-ups, including one in the capital Beijing, but authorities managed to contain each cluster within a few weeks using mass testing, thorough contact tracing, and reimposed restrictions.

Chinese authorities are able to test so many people so quickly because of batch testing -- a method that combines 10 samples at a time during testing.

If any batch turns out positive, then all 10 people are quarantined and tested individually.

"We need to test the entire population within five days," said Zhang Huaqiang, deputy director of the Qingdao Center for Disease Control and Prevention, at a news conference on Wednesday.

An infected patient might test negative, then days later test positive -- so hidden cases can't all be caught at once.

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