Plans afoot to test five million

Top News | Jane Cheung 11 Aug 2020

Five million Hongkongers are expected to volunteer for citywide Covid-19 testing, food and health secretary Sophia Chan Siu-chee said.

The innovation and technology bureau will design a registration system for signing up participants but discussions are still going on over whether to use deep throat saliva or throat swab samples.

"Previous extended surveillance of high-risk groups was well received. The department of health's tests involving buildings with confirmed cases saw a participation rate of 70 to 80 percent," Chan said.

She said public labs tested around 10,000 samples a day over the past two weeks, but the massive demand created by citywide testing would rely on three mainland institutions.

Asked what sampling method will be adopted, Chan said experts are discussing how many samples should be collected every day and whether they should be taken by professionals or self-administered.

This came as a nine-month-old girl yesterday swallowed the tip of a cotton swab as medics took throat swabs at Taipa Ferry Terminal testing center in Macau.

The three-centimeter tip came loose and the girl swallowed it. She was rushed to Conde S Januario Hospital.

Infectious disease expert Joseph Tsang Kay-yan from the Hong Kong Medical Association said throat swab samples should be taken by medics as the process requires inserting a cotton swab deep into the throat until it touches the uvula and tonsils.

"Those who are untrained will easily poke the wrong spot and fail to collect a sufficient specimen, which will affect the accuracy of tests," he said.

That came as anti-epidemic restrictions were extended until 11.59pm on August 18 on 14 types of business, entertainment and recreational venues, including the dine-in ban, sthe ocial gathering cap of two people and compulsory wearing of masks.

Apart from citywide testing, Executive Council member Lam Ching-choi called for weekly tests on care home staffers and improvements to ventilation systems, as over 10 elderly and disabled institutions are seeing outbreaks.

"Local care homes are usually packed with poor air ventilation," he said.

"Caregivers could bring the virus from the community to care homes, but if we can step up infection control, we can prevent it from developing into outbreaks [when] one to two residents are infected."

Jane Cheung

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