Expert cautions on easing virus restrictions without wider testing

Local | 4 Sep 2020 9:02 am

The head of infectious diseases at Hong Kong University's medical school said today that the city needs to complete a week of community-wide testing before it's possible to draw real conclusions on the level of silent coronavirus transmission in the community, RTHK reports.

Ivan Hung was commenting on the results of the first 128,000 samples, which identified just two new patients. Out of six people uncovered, four were previous patients with low viral loads.

Chuang Shuk-kwan, from the Centre for Health Protection, said the low virus load in the four recovered patients meant they would not infect anyone else.

Asked if this much-lower-than-expected finding of possibly asymptomatic cases should now lead to a swift relaxation of infection-control measures, Hung said the authorities had been talking about screening four million or five million .

"It's still a little bit low if the population is seven million. So you actually need probably [to be] completing the first round, reaching about a million," Hung said.

"Then you can estimate the number of asymptomatic cases out there. Then we can tell that - you know - it's definitely very clean and you can actually relax infection control measures."

Earlier this week, an expert who is advising the government on its anti-epidemic response said more measures may be eased in a week or two if the number of new coronavirus cases continued to fall.

Speaking on an RTHK radio program, David Hui said the government could relax a restaurant dining restriction to allow four people per table if Hong Kong's situation eases.

The government on Wednesday announced the easing of some anti-epidemic measures from Friday, including extending dining-in at restaurants by one more hour and allowing fitness centres and massage parlours to reopen.

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