Coronavirus tests can be difficult to come by in many countries, including in hard-hit parts of the United States and Britain, but in Wuhan, the Chinese epicenter of the pandemic, they are fast, cheap and easy to get.

My colleagues and I had just arrived in the central city where the novel coronavirus emerged in humans late last year, and as a foreigner I was told that I was required to take a nucleic test to prove that I was free of the potentially deadly flu-like virus.

A government official escorted me to the test site, a table outside the entrance of a shuttered hotel. A single medical worker sat there, dressed in a zipped-up hazmat suit and goggles.