About five million Hong Kong citizens are expected to participate in a massive voluntary COVID-19 testing programme by the Hong Kong government, as reported by South China Morning Post.
This initiative is part of the city’s efforts in containing the third wave of COVID-19 infections.
According to Hong Kong’s Secretary for Food and Health Dr Sophia Chan on Monday (10 Aug), details of the testing programme have yet to be finalised, though citizens who wish to participate will need to register.
“We are still deciding on the exact process, but those who want to get tested will have to register first,” said Dr Chan, adding that the Innovation and Technology Bureau would help set up the registration system.
Given that it is difficult for some residents to provide their own samples correctly while the details are being worked out, Dr Chan said that there would be a discussion with health experts on the possibility of having sample-taking stations set up.
Additionally, the health authorities will study the efficiency of sample-taking methods – such as nasal swabs, deep throat saliva samples, or throat swabs.
According to Dr Chan, over 160,000 people have been tested in the mass COVID-19 testing that was carried out among the various high-risk groups, which included taxi drivers and care workers.
Of those tested, 18 people have been found to be infected with the virus.
Meanwhile, infectious disease expert Joseph Tsang Kay-yan opined that the Government’s mass testing plan would help to contain the third wave, though he cautioned that the officials should standardise the testing procedure so as to ensure the samples are valid.
What’s more, Mr Tsang suggested that the Government should have medical staff to test people based on nasal or throat swab samples instead of asking residents to provide their own samples.
“People may not have the training to do it correctly or find the right position, and I worry the test kits will go to waste,” he added.
Last Friday (7 Aug), Hong Kong’s Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor announced that the voluntary mass testing will be rolled out within two weeks, with the help of three laboratories from mainland China to carry out the testing.
A team of 60 medical experts from mainland China will be leading the process.
Although the Government has not finalised the details of the testing programme, Ms Lam stated that the early announcement was made owing to the “online smearing” which claimed that DNA would be sent to China.
“We have seen much smearing about the support teams online and there have been biased views which put politics before people’s safety, so I needed to make a clarification,” said Ms Lam, explaining that the laboratories only receive the specimen bottles, but not patients’ personal information.
As of Monday (9 Aug), Hong Kong has recorded 4,149 confirmed COVID-19 cases with 55 related deaths so far.
Since early of July, the city witnessed a sudden spike in COVID-19 cases with more than 1,000 confirmed infections, which is more than 40 per cent of the total cases since the virus first hit the city in late January.
Following this, the authorities implemented its toughest social distancing measures yet by making mask-wearing compulsory when the residents leave their homes and banning dining-in services in restaurants.
Beyond this, no more than two people from different households can gather in public with fines of up to $HK5,000 (S$708) for those who breach the new emergency rules.