People line up at a Covid-19 test counter in Beijing, China, on Monday, November 28, 2022. The capital city has been asking for regular virus testing for more than half a year.
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BEIJING – Locals’ frustration with China’s Covid control measures is increasingly targeted at the virus testing requirements and big business they’ve pushed.
Trending on Weibo, China’s version of Twitter, on Tuesday morning was a hashtag: “If the virus testing chaos never stops, the pandemic may never end,” according to the report. CNBC’s Chinese translation.
The hashtag refers to the title of an opinion that has now been removed from a publication overseen by the People’s Daily, the newspaper of the Communist Party of China. The article listed a number of alleged cases of falsifying virus test results this year across the country, including in Shanghai and Beijing.
The article warns that underreporting nucleic acid test results could cause the virus to spread further, leading to more rounds of testing — and months of continued lockdowns.
The same media on Monday published an article, still online, about More than 30 virus testing companies in China are all controlled by the same shareholder – has been fined many times.
Last week, the Lanzhou city health authority blamed one of those companies for reporting several positive test results for the virus as negative.
It is not clear to what extent there is cheating or whether the large volume of tests makes it difficult to process them correctly.
In the US, the rise of pop-up virus testing stations raises concerns about fraud as well as identity theft.
On Tuesday, a Chinese official said at a press conference that the cities of Beijing, Hefei and Shijiazhuang, among others, had found problems with some virus testing companies. withdraw and punish them. Criminal investigations into a number of organizations and individuals have also been carried out, the official added.
In the last month, several major cities across mainland China have reported an increase in infections, prompting lockdown orders to be extended. Students and groups of people held public demonstrations over the weekend to protest against Covid control measures, a policy that has existed for almost three years.
Restrictions got tighter this year as authorities sought to track and contain the more contagious variant of Omicron. The capital Beijing, Shanghai and many parts of the country have mandated regular virus testing for months – while traveling or entering public places like supermarkets.
The Beijing city government said on Wednesday that people who were mostly staying at home would not need to be tested as often, following a similar announcement in some parts of the city of Guangzhou earlier this week.
CNBC selected 15 publicly-listed Chinese Covid testing companies and found that they reported total revenue of 86.58 billion yuan ($12.2 billion) for the first three quarters of the year, according to CNBC. data from Wind Information.
Not all of their revenue necessarily comes from testing. But their business made a big profit this year through the end of September.
The data shows that seven of the companies reported a revenue increase of nearly double or more during that time from a year ago — one company even saw a nearly quadrupling in revenue. Three of those companies have listed on the mainland market since the pandemic began in early 2020.
Last week, the Shanghai Stock Exchange canceled its review of an IPO proposal by a virus-testing company.
In the first half of this year, 237 virus testing-related businesses were registered in China – up 51.9% from a year ago, according to Qichacha, a Chinese enterprise database.
Until the beginning of this year, testing for the virus was mainly conducted by hospitals and did not require a negative result to be conducted in public locations in some cities.
Analysts say regular testing could help authorities limit the spread of infection more quickly.
But after Shanghai locked down at the beginning of AprilMany cities including Beijing have begun setting up additional kiosks nearby for PCR virus testing – a polymerase chain reaction test that is highly accurate and fairly simple to handle.
At least in Beijing, stations regularly display the logos of the companies handling the checks, with no upfront fees charged to those being tested.
In May, the central government promoted the idea that in major cities, Covid testing stations should be within a 15-minute walk. The city of Beijing reiterated those plans on Wednesday.
As China navigates the path of reopening, state media has put more emphasis on local compliance with regulations. the latest version of the health authority’s Covid policy and Further measures to be introduced in November. Neither of them stipulates whether virus testing stations should be deployed.