China is conducting normalized nucleic acid tests across big cities and towns, following its strict Zero-Covid policy. When analyzing the proposed plan closely, many say it is a myth in terms of financing because there seems to be no money to pay for all those exorbitant costs.
Let’s analyze the proposal in detail and its costs.
How much does it take to set up testing booths?
First, we must understand the “15-minute nucleic acid sampling circle”.
The government wants to run ‘normalized’ Covid testing places in residential areas, large outdoor places, office areas, and other public places continuously every day for the whole year. Residents would have to walk 15 minutes at most to take a Covid test because these booths would be set up 15 minutes apart.
These testing booths or testing stations would be set up in all the big cities in China, including all the capital cities of 31 provinces in China and every city with a population of more than 10 million people. So 36 cities would fit this standard.
How many testing booths are needed to carry out this normalized Covid testing plan across China?
These 36 cities would need to buy around 127,000 testing booths.
The price for these booths varies across cities, but let’s take the cost of a testing booth in Henan 河南 province as standard, which is about the average range. It’s about 7.000 dollars per booth.
So, to sum up, 127,000 testing booths times 7.000 dollars per booth equals almost 900 million dollars.
The actual price tag might be higher, as some big cities are conducting tighter Zero-Covid policy and buying more test booths, and some towns are following suit.
How much does it cost to run the test booth?
A testing booth is not enough. After setting up the booth, you need to spend money on testing materials, including protective clothing, gloves, sampling tubes, bio transport boxes, trash cans, and others.
So if they carry out the weekly normalized Covid test, it would cost almost 6 billion dollars a year, considering the lower bar.
And not yet enough. Covid testing needs people. Medical people to take the test, and security people to guard the booth.
So for the 127,000 testing booths we mentioned above, even if one testing booth has only one testing person and only one security guard every three testing booths, it will take 127,000 medical staff and 4.2 thousand security guards.
How much would it take to pay the staff?
According to reports, the current salary of testing personnel ranges from 75 to 150 dollars per day.
And the salary for security guards is 50 dollars a day for a place in Shenzhen, which is standard.
So if we take the lower limit for the weekly Covid test, the annual salary of medical staff taking the test would be almost 500 million dollars. The wages of security guards would be about 110 million dollars.
So, it would take another 600 million dollars annually to pay for all the staff running the test booth.
All things considered, it would cost almost 7.4 billion dollars in the first year to set up the testing booth, pay for the people running it, and buy all the testing materials.
And what about the testing fees?
Just by testing once a week, the annual testing cost for these 380 million people in major cities would be more than 10 billion dollars.
One point worth mentioning is that although the central government, Beijing, rolled out this plan, it would not pay for it. Specifically, China Healthcare Security has said by the end of May that it would not pay the bill, but the local government would have to bear the burden. And many places are struggling due to a shrinking real estate revenue—the key revenue source. So they pass the fee to the people and charge them for the test. The local government even diverts money from anti-poverty funds to finance mass coronavirus testing.
So the question again is, Who pays the bill?
Besides the high financial and labor cost, the normalized compulsory Covid-19 testing lacks legal bases.
For example, Siping government in Jilin province recently announced a 75 dollar fine for anyone skipping two PCR tests, plus 10 days of jail time and blacklisting.
Zhao Hong, a law professor at the China University of Political Science and Law in Beijing, has spoken against this compulsory Covid-19 testing. He said Chinese laws do not support these penalties and could violate individual rights.
This penalty is not applicable under Article 50 of the Public Security Administration Punishment Law. And local governments did not have the right to declare a state of emergency in their area without permission.