Want to buy a repurposed Covid testing booth? In China, you can
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Thousands of booths where people once took Covid-19 tests fell out of use when the Chinese government ended its Zero-Covid policy in December 2022. Since then, some of these booths have been put up for sale online in the hope that someone will give them a second life.
The Chinese government installed Covid testing booths on streets all across China as part of Zero-Covid, a public health policy that used mass testing as a strategy to suppress the virus. However, all of these booths became defunct on December 7, 2022, when Chinese authorities dropped the policy after three years.
In response to the pandemic, the Chinese government built and installed thousands of small, compact testing booths in Chinese cities in order to allow people to rapidly and easily access a PCR test. The booths themselves were built to limit contact between the people testing and staff, so many have large windows with two armed-sized holes just big enough for a hand wearing a latex glove to grab a test.
Since the policy was dropped, these booths have been abandoned until someone decides what to do with them.
Abandoned Covid test booths: the only remnants of China’s collective amnesia from the zero-Covid policy pic.twitter.com/RozeRs5aYx— Yaling Jiang (@yaling_jiang) February 15, 2023
Some have already begun their second life. In Suzhou, a town in eastern China, the booths were transformed into pop-up stalls for the Lunar New Year, a bit like a Christmas market. In other parts of China, booths have been turned into mobile libraries, street food counters or even outposts where you can access community services.
‘PCR testing booth for sale’
However, other booths have popped up for sale on Tabao, the Chinese online retail giant. Some of them are being sold for a shocking one hundred yuan (about 14 euros).
The Chinese government’s sudden change in policy has left a number of companies within the testing sector with now-defunct stock, according to Chinese online media outlet The Paper.
The article describes the head of sales at a company that specializes in medical tests, who had no idea what to do with the dozens of now-defunct booths in his company’s possession. So he said that he put them for sale on Taobao, listing them on the account his wife uses to sell clothes.
However, this surplus of testing booths is far from the only worry for people in the medical equipment sector, who adapted their model of production and hired a lot of people to respond to the demand created by the Zero-Covid policy.
In the wake of the end of the policy, lots of people have lost their jobs, and the labs that process tests have found themselves overstocked with swabs, tubes and other supplies they no longer need. Some of them are also selling these items on social media.
It’s true that back when the Chinese government first announced the installation of thousands of permanent Covid-19 testing stations, some economists expressed fears about the cost and durability of the operation.
Despite the country’s massive investment in testing and isolation, the Chinese health system is struggling to manage the sharp increase in cases that followed the end of the Zero-Covid strategy, which demonstrates the lack of resources allocated to the health system.