Shanghai's Pudong airport authorities decided to conduct mass testing after several new cases of Coronavirus infection were traced back to cargo workers at the facility. As per reports over 17,000 workers of the airport were tested for COVID-19 amid reportedly chaotic scenes.

The authorities on Sunday, November 22 requested all cargo staff come for testing. While some official photos captured an orderly and calm process, other social media videos show officials in hazmat suits corralling large and yelling crowds into a restricted space. Many of these videos have disappeared, and state media have not reported any chaotic scene.

Zhou Junlong, who is the vice-president of the Shanghai Airport Authority, said on Monday, November 23 that 17,719 workers from the cargo handling section were tested for COVID-19. By Monday noon, 11,544 had tested negative for the virus.

Nasopharynx swab
Mass testing of Shanghai airport workers (representational image) Wikimedia Commons

What Videos Show?

On social media platforms, some videos appear that show many workers crowded into the parking area on Sunday night. It also shows that some of them also pushed the workers in PPE gear.

According to Global Times, which is a state-run news outlet, mass testing started on Sunday afternoon after many cargo workers and close contacts tested positive for COVID-19. But footages shared by the news outlet appeared to show the testing being carried out in a more orderly manner.

The officials said that the small outbreak is likely traced back to the cargo handlers at the Shanghai airport who had cleaned the shipping container that came from North America on October 30. After being free of local infections for five months, Shanghai has reported six local cases since November 9—five in the past few days, also involving workers handling the airport's cargo and their close contacts. One of the workers is believed to have infected his three co-workers, as well as his wife.

Airport officials decided to set up on-site acid testing for the most vulnerable cargo handlers and meanwhile, "we will step up disinfection of imported goods as well as the cargo handling equipment and work areas," said Zhou.

It was also reported that the most vulnerable workers would receive a Coronavirus vaccine, via emergency authorization from the Chinese government. However, even though none of the Chinese vaccines are fully ready to distribute, reports said that some frontline workers, such as medical staff have already received a dose.

As per the current data, since the beginning of the pandemic, the total number of confirmed cases in China stands at just over 92,000, with a death toll of over 4,700.