All 11 million residents of Wuhan will be tested for the coronavirus, officials in the Chinese city where the outbreak began last year said on Friday, as the country marked one month without any reported deaths from the disease.
Beijing also responded to the latest volley from President Donald Trump, who said he didn’t want to speak to President Xi Jinping at the moment, and added that he could cut ties with the world’s second-largest economy if he wanted to.
The provincial government of Hubei, where Wuhan is located, said on its website that the city “will carry out nucleic acid tests on all citizens, comprehensively screen for asymptomatic infections, to reassure the people of Wuhan and reassure the people across the country.”
An employee manning a telephone hotline set-up by the Mayor of Wuhan, told NBC News that “everyone needs to be tested.” For now, the mass testing drive at the epicenter of the coronavirus crisis in China, is provided free of charge and organized through registering with neighborhood committees.
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State-run CCTV broadcast images on television of residents in Wuhan — who emerged from lockdown last month — being tested on Thursday and said officials would aim to screen residents across the city for 10 days.
This follows a handful of new cases in Wuhan earlier this month, while small clusters have also been reported in Jilin and Liaoning regions, raising fresh concerns for Beijing.
National Health Commission spokeswoman Song Shuli told reporters on Thursday that the country had to prevent a rebounding of the infection, that has so far killed 4,633 people in China, by stepping up tracing and testing.
The last death in China from coronavirus was reported on April 14, according to the country’s National Health Commission.
The U.S. remains the world’s worst-hit country, according to data from Johns Hopkins University, with deaths nearing 86,000 people.
On Thursday, during an interview with Fox Business news channel, Trump again blamed China for the pandemic and its effects.
“Whether it came from the lab or it came from the bats — it all came from China and they should have stopped it,” he said.
“There are many things we could do … We could cut off the whole relationship,” he said in response to a question about what repercussions might look like for China.
China shot back on Friday that “maintaining the stable development of Sino-U.S. relations is in the fundamental interests of the two peoples and is conducive to world peace and stability,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said in a press briefing.
“Currently, China and the United States should continue to strengthen cooperation in combating the epidemic … but this also requires the United States to act in cooperation with China.”
A fiery editorial penned by the state mouthpiece newspaper, the Global Times on Friday, dismissed Trump’s remarks as “lunacy” and proof of U.S. “anxiety” over China’s “global ascension.”
Adding, “it is also a combination of envy and panic on behalf of Washington elites who recognize the substantial gap between the U.S. and China in how both countries responded to the pandemic.”
Relations between Beijing and Washington have deteriorated as a result of the coronavirus outbreak, which this week passed the grim milestone of 300,000 global deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data.
Both sides have heaped criticism on the other in recent months, in an escalating war of words.
Senior U.S. officials including Secretary of State Pompeo have sought to lay blame with China for the spread of the disease and publicly speculated the origin could have been a virology lab in the city of Wuhan. China has vehemently dismissed such claims and hit back with a counter-narrative that the U.S. had wasted critical time to prepare for the virus and was seeking to deflect attention from its own death toll.