Wuhan, China, faces such a shortage of coronavirus test-kits that people say getting one is like ‘winning the lottery’

This photo taken on January 22, 2020 shows medical staff members wearing protective suits at the Zhongnan hospital in Wuhan in China's central Hubei province. - China banned trains and planes from leaving Wuhan at the centre of a virus outbreak on January 23, seeking to seal off its 11 million people to contain the contagious disease that has claimed 17 lives, infected hundreds and spread to other countries.

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This photo taken on January 22, 2020 shows medical staff members wearing protective suits at the Zhongnan hospital in Wuhan in China’s central Hubei province. – China banned trains and planes from leaving Wuhan at the centre of a virus outbreak on January 23, seeking to seal off its 11 million people to contain the contagious disease that has claimed 17 lives, infected hundreds and spread to other countries.
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STR/AFP via Getty Images

Health authorities in Wuhan, China, are reportedly facing such a shortage in test kits for the deadly coronavirus that originated in the city that people say getting one is like “winning the lottery.”

Mimi Lau, a reporter at the South China Morning Post, said the shortage in coronavirus test kits are delaying diagnoses, and patients in hospitals in Wuhan have likened getting access to a kit to winning lottery tickets.

Lu Chen, a PhD student affiliated with the UK’s Wellcome Trust health research foundation, on Thursday cited an on-the-ground report from Chinese microblogging site Weibo detailing a shortage of supply test kits.

According to the Weibo post, only those with severe symptoms can be tested due to shortage of kits in Wuhan, as well as in the surrounding area in Hubei province.

The report also said that, in an unnamed major city in Hubei, only a small batch of test kits was delivered, and they were only enough to treat “less than one-tenth” of the number of people waiting to be checked at the hospital.

Business Insider has not been able to independently verify the Weibo report, but multiple photos and videos from Wuhan this week have shown dozens of people packed into tiny hospital hallways waiting for treatment.

A man leaves a medical center in Wuhan, China, where at least one patient died after contracting a new and little-understood respiratory virus.

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A man leaves a medical center in Wuhan, China, where at least one patient died after contracting a new and little-understood respiratory virus.
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Noel Celis/AFP via Getty Images

In a Thursday statement, the Wuhan Municipal Health Commission said a total of ten biosafety labs, “with the corresponding protection levels,” will be able to test nearly 2,000 samples every day when at full capacity.

It is not clear when the labs will be up and running, but the report said the request for further assistance from “the relevant higher authorities” was made January 22.

It added that the city plans to transport 30,000 kits to the labs but has only issued 6,000 of them so far.

The statement did not directly address a shortage in physical tests, but illustrates an apparent incapacity to keep up with the rapidly-spreading virus that has now killed 26 people in China and infected more than 870.

The virus, known as 2019-nCoV, is spread from person to person.

Authorities in China announced a lockdown on several cities amid fears it could spread during the Lunar New Year, when people travel more than usual domestically and abroad. A total of 33 million people live in the quarantined cities.

Passengers who just arrived on a train from Wuhan, China are screened for coronavirus in Beijing.

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Passengers who just arrived on a train from Wuhan, China are screened for coronavirus in Beijing.
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Kevin Frayer/Getty Images

The virus has also placed pressure on hospitals and healthcare professionals, who say they face a “flooding” of patients and lack protective gear.

A doctor at a Wuhan hospital told the BBC that thousands of patients are waiting for hours to be seen, and that there has been an “alarming rate of spread” of the deadly virus over the last two weeks.

“I am scared because this is a new virus and the figures are alarming,” said the unnamed doctor, according to the BBC.

The city of Wuhan is scrambling to build a brand-new hospital in just six days to treat coronavirus patients amid the influx.

The World Health Organization has assessed the risk of the disease to be very high in China, but has not yet designated it as a public health emergency.