Coronavirus: Wuhan is testing all 11 million citizens for COVID-19, sparking huge crowds and no social distancing

An ambitious plan to test all 11 million residents of the Chinese city of Wuhan over just 10 days has led to long queues and countless examples of citizens ignoring social distancing.

Authorities announced mass testing efforts earlier this month when a coronavirus outbreak emerged, sparking fears of a second wave of COVID-19.

The pandemic originated in Wuhan late last year and has since ravaged the world, with more than five million confirmed cases globally and 332,000 deaths.

A Communist Party official representing the Hubei Province was dismissed on May 11 for his perceived failure in containing the virus, according to reports.

On May 14, officials announced a plan to test everyone across the 13 districts in Wuhan over 10 days.

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Wuhan residents queue for nucleic acid tests. Picture: Asiawire/australscopeSource:australscope

Wuhan residents ignore social distancing as thousands queue for COVID-19 tests on the day the city nearly doubled its daily testing figure to screen a staggering 856,128 people. Picture: Asiawire/australscopeSource:australscope

On Tuesday, the reported daily testing figure doubled to a mammoth 856,000 people. Health authorities are working from pop-up outdoor clinics across the city.

But the blitz has led to mass crowding as people wait their turn for the three-minute swab procedure, with images emerging of people not observing official social distancing measures.

It has sparked concerns about the adequacy of safety measures.

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Wuhan residents in Jiang'an District crowd a COVID-19 testing station on Tuesday. Picture: Asiawire/australscopeSource:australscope

Data collected from Tuesday’s huge testing effort revealed 13 confirmed COVID-19 cases in people who displayed no symptoms.

It brings the total number of discovered cases during the testing period to 71.

Wuhan eased its strict lockdown in early April and the new cluster was discovered almost one month later to the day.

Anyone wishing to return to work, school or university must provide proof of testing.

Li Shengnan, a nurse at Zhongnan Hospital of Wuhan University, told the news outlet China Daily that social distancing was being strongly encouraged.

"Although the weather is already hot in Wuhan and wearing protective equipment from head to toe makes it hotter, we think it is worth it, as mass testing will ease people's worries about the pandemic," she said.

Wuhan residents queue for nucleic acid tests. Picture: Asiawire/australscopeSource:australscope

The testing blitz comes amid a ban on the eating of wild animals in Wuhan, amid mounting pressure for the government to crack down on the illegal wildlife trade.

Eating wild animals, as well as hunting them within city limits, has officially been prohibited, with the city declaring itself a “wildlife sanctuary” on Wednesday, CBS reported.

Government-sanctioned hunting for “scientific research, population regulation, monitoring of epidemic diseases and other special circumstances” is the only exception.

The new policy, which went into effect on May 13, will stay in place for five years, according to a notice released by the Wuhan government today.