As fresh coronavirus cases were reported in the central Chinese city of Wuhan, sparking concerns over a second wave of the epidemic there, medical experts in the democratic island of Taiwan said they have developed a herbal treatment for COVID-19.
Wuhan's epidemic control center on Monday issued a notice to officials of a city-wide program of nucleic acid tests for millions of residents after a cluster of cases emerged in the Dongmin residential compound in Jianghan district.
Wuhan resident Shen Boyang said many in the city now fear a second wave of infections.
"It may be spreading widely again," Shen said. "Regarding the test program, I will only comply if it is at the government's expense and not my own."
"People in Wuhan are all talking about a resurgence of the epidemic; I heard that five cases were also confirmed in Shandi district," he said.
A second Wuhan resident said two suspected cases had also been reported at Dongmin residential compound, where officials were disinfecting the entire area.
Thousands of people have been flocking to hospitals in the city to line up for tests, but at their own expense, sources in the city said.
A third Wuhan resident, Fang Peng, said the details of the new testing scheme have yet to emerge.
"We were also looking at this document yesterday," Fang said. "It doesn't say how many people will be tested, nor who will pay for it."
"There has been one confirmed case in Changqing residential compound in Dongxihu district, and four asymptomatic cases," Fang said. "Asymptomatic cases aren't counted in the same figure as confirmed cases."
He said local neighborhood officials had initially tried to play down the number of cases, then changed the figure they reported.
"You can't believe what they say, because the actual numbers they report are subject to the internal processes of the [ruling Chinese Communist] Party," Fang said.
New treatment in Taiwan
Meanwhile, health experts in democratic Taiwan say they have developed a treatment for COVID-19 patients using a combination of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) herbs and Western medicine.
Taiwan's National Research Institute of Chinese Medicine (NRICM) said it had seen 12 patients given the medicine discharged from hospital within 8-10 days of starting treatment, the island's Central News Agency (CNA) reported.
NRICM Director Su Yi-Chang said two other recently confirmed patients are still undergoing treatment.
Su said the ingredients used would only be revealed by the research team if they are approved by the Central Epidemic Command Center's (CECC) for use in its recommended treatment regime.
The treatment made use of Su's experience with treating SARS patients with TCM in 2003, Su told CNA.
The prescriptions, when used in combination with Western medicine, have been effective in stabilizing the heart rate and blood pressure of COVID-19 patients, as well as alleviating their fevers, Su said.
The research team found that some TCM ingredients can fuse with spike proteins on the surface of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, preventing the virus from infecting the human body.
Another benefit of the treatment is that it can help suppress a cytokine storm, an overreaction of the body's immune system that can be fatal, the report said.
Reported by Qiao Long for RFA's Mandarin Service, and by Wong Siu-san and Sing Man for the Cantonese Service. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.