Medical staff wait to collect swab samples from residents for COVID-19 test in Qingdao, East China’s Shandong province, Oct 14, 2020. [Photo/Xinhua]

Nucleic acid testing has been proven to be one of the most effective means of epidemic prevention, and migrant workers wanting to return home for Spring Festival are required to have a negative nucleic acid test result. It is therefore heartening that after the State Council, China’s Cabinet, emphasized that all localities must reduce the cost of nucleic acid testing, public hospitals in most parts of the country have lowered the cost of a test to 80 yuan ($12.45) from 120 yuan as of Thursday when the Lunar New Year travel rush started.

Despite the authorities’ suggestion that people stay put for the Lunar New Year, which falls on Feb 12 this year, it is estimated that more than 1.1 billion trips will be made in China during the peak holiday travel period from Thursday to March 8.

As required by local governments, those staying longer than 14 days in the place they visit may have to take multiple nucleic acid tests. And when they return to the places where they work, they will still need to take tests and undergo at least 14 days of quarantine.

As such, to reduce the price of a test can help ease the financial burden on them, especially on migrant workers.

That’s why the central authorities have started demanding local governments try to lower the price of a test by making bulk purchases of test kits, protective articles and other consumable items weeks before the start of the Spring Festival travel season.

Many local governments are encouraging hospitals to use the mixed-test model-for instance samples taken from 10 persons can be mixed and tested together-this not only increases the testing capacity, it also lowers the cost of the test to about 15 yuan per person. The mixed-test model can be used to screen low-risk groups.

Grassroots governments need to keep those migrant workers returning home informed of the test price, the location of testing stations and local epidemic prevention and control policies, so that people can rationally arrange their trips, and take the initiative to cooperate with the work.

Those who are traveling should keep abreast of when they need to take a test. To lower the transmission risks stemming from such a large-scale migration of people entails the cooperation of all those who will be on the move.

The government should make more efforts to help the test kit manufacturers to lower their production costs in the future so as to further reduce the price of a test, as now they have become an essential tool for epidemic prevention and control.