A network of tens of thousands of lab testing booths are being set up across the country’s largest and most economically vital cities, with the goal of having residents always just a 15 minute walk away from a swabbing point. The infrastructure will allow cities like Beijing, Shanghai, tech hub Shenzhen and e-commerce heartland Hangzhou to require tests as often as every 48 hours, with negative results needed to get on the subway or even enter a store.
Researchers at China’s prestigious Tsinghua University designed robots to automate the swabbing process. Companies are dangling monthly salaries exceeding 10,000 yuan ($1,487) to recruit staff for the white, modular buildings that feature either sliding windows reminiscent of an amusement park entry point or two circular holes, chest-high, that allow workers to slip out gloved hands for swabbing purposes.
The investment underscores China’s commitment to Covid Zero, an approach that’s made it the only country in the world to contain the highly transmissible omicron variant that emerged last year. It required unrelenting effort, including business restrictions and personal sacrifices from millions of people. Other countries subsequently abandoned the policy that is becoming more entrenched in China, even as it upends the economy.