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National Health Commission: Asymptomatic COVID-19 Cases Nationwide to Be Reported from 31 March

2020/04/01

On 31 March, the National Health Commission released Questions and Answers on the Control of Asymptomatic COVID-19 Cases (hereinafter referred to as asymptomatic cases), which identifies asymptomatic cases as those who have no self-perceived or clinically identified symptoms or signs such as fever, cough and sore throat, yet test positive in the etiological examination of their respiratory or other samples.

There are two types of asymptomatic cases: those who test positive in nucleic acid testing but have no self-perceived or clinically identified symptoms or signs throughout and after the 14-day observation period; and those who test positive in nucleic acid testing, show no self-perceived or clinically identified symptoms or signs at the time when samples are taken but later develop some sort of clinical manifestations, i.e. “asymptomatic infection” during the incubation period.

There are four ways to identify asymptomatic cases: first, proactive testing on the close contacts of COVID-19 cases during medical observation; second, proactive testing during the investigation of cluster cases; third, proactive testing on people exposed during infection source tracing; and fourth, proactive testing on certain groups of people who have travel or stay records in regions with sustained transmission, domestic or overseas. According to statistics, as of 24:00, 30 March, there were 1,541 asymptomatic cases under medical observation, among which 205 were imported cases.

Existing research suggests that asymptomatic cases are infectious, but further study is needed to find out the duration of the period of infectiousness, level of infectiousness, and patterns of transmission.

The National Health Commission requires health facilities to report asymptomatic cases directly online within two hours after their detection. Asymptomatic cases will be put under isolation at designated places for 14 days and, in principle, may be released after the 14-day period and with two consecutive negative nucleic acid tests (with a minimum 24-hour interval between sampling). Those who still test positive must undertake further medical observation and be regarded as confirmed cases thereafter should clinical manifestations appear. Close contacts of asymptomatic cases must also be quarantined for medical observation at designated places for 14 days.

Going forward, competent departments will step up screening and extend testing to include close contacts of confirmed and asymptomatic cases as well as key areas and groups. Monitoring of key cities, groups and places will be intensified in light of the reopening of businesses and schools. Nucleic acid testing will be conducted on all inbound travelers. Starting from 1 April, the Commission’s daily updates will include the reporting and management of asymptomatic cases as well as their further development.

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