China’s city of Hangzhou has adopted a frequent Covid-19 testing routine since Thursday to beat the highly transmissible Omicron variant, in line with the country’s “early detection” goal under its dynamic zero-Covid policy. The provincial capital of eastern Zhejiang province and home to 12 million people has set up around 6,500 testing stations for residents and visitors to get PCR tested every 48 hours, according to local authorities. From Saturday, residents must show their test results to enter their residential areas, offices, public transport, public venues and schools, it added. Those who enter the city should be tested in the 48 hours before arriving. Ying Xumin, deputy director of the Hangzhou health commission, said the frequent testing routine was key to detecting infections as early as possible and minimising the risk of spread in public venues. “Hangzhou faces a severe risk of imported cases [from other parts of the country]. The Labour Day [five-day] holiday is around the corner and there will be more movement of people and gatherings. “We launched the routine testing service to secure the hard-won results of Covid-19 control and maintain the normal operations of businesses and life in the city,” he said, adding that 7.4 million people were tested on Thursday. On Friday, the city reported seven new asymptomatic infections. One was an arrival from outside the city identified at the railway station and the rest were detected within local areas already under isolation. Li Bin, vice-minister of the National Health Commission, said on Friday the country aimed to act fast to beat the rapid transmission of Omicron. “The Omicron variant is highly infectious, transmits quickly and often unnoticed, and causes a high proportion of asymptomatic infections,” Li said. “[We] use both rapid antigen and PCR tests to identify infections as early as possible.” He said all local governments should stick to the dynamic zero-Covid policy and control local outbreaks to avoid infections spilling over to other parts of the country. “If certain places do not resolutely adhere to the policy … it might become the ‘transmitter’ and ‘magnifier’ of outbreaks, causing heavy loss of life and property and seriously affecting economic and social development,” he said. “We encourage local governments to improve precision in Covid-19 control to achieve the greatest results with the least cost.” EU moving out of Covid-19 pandemic ‘emergency mode’ Beijing’s policy is to contain local outbreaks with strict preventive measures, despite much of the rest of the world embracing a live-with-the-virus mentality. There have been calls from foreign businesses to resume international exchanges and ease pressure on the industrial and services sectors, both hit hard by the tough control measures. China’s insistence on zero-Covid has been controversial as people question the high cost of the social and economic disruption. Huang Yanzhong, a senior fellow for global health at the New York-based Council on Foreign Relations, said Hangzhou’s frequent testing routine used PCR tests, instead of at-home rapid antigen tests, so authorities could be sure they knew the test results under a centralised system and could follow up with isolation orders. “The country is adjusting its zero-Covid policy, drawing on the experience of Shanghai’s outbreak. The megacity did not act fast enough to nip the crisis in the bud, causing huge social and economic costs. “Other places are now learning from Shenzhen which launched mass testing once a few cases were identified to stop the spread as early as possible. “That also means all places have to be vigilant and on high alert all the time to prepare for the return of the virus and make testing part of their routine, even if there is no local outbreak,” Huang said, adding that the practice might continue over the next six months, and become more widely adopted nationwide. In March, China approved Covid-19 rapid antigen tests for public use and it adopts a dual testing strategy – both PCR and RAT – for “early detection”. PCR test samples are tested for viral genetic material in a laboratory and results usually take between one day and a few days.