Lab's round-the-clock work boosts daily test capacity to 500,000

Top News | Jane Cheung 14 Aug 2020

Local medical laboratory technicians will work at mainland laboratory BGI Genomics in three shifts around the clock to boost testing capacity to 500,000 a day, a person in charge told Xinhua News Agency.

Cao Sujie, BGI's Huo-yan mobile laboratory chief commander, said 16 inflatable labs have been set up at Sun Yat Sen Memorial Park Sports Centre in Sai Ying Pun and all testing equipment will be installed in two days.

On sampling methods, Cao said the mainland widely adopted throat and nasal swab sampling but admitted it would require considerable medical manpower to collect the specimens.

"Still, I recommend using throat swabs for citywide testing in Hong Kong," he said.

Wong Lei-po, chief of Hong Kong Molecular Pathology Diagnostic Centre, which will also do the testing, said his company's new laboratories can begin service on Sunday to boost daily testing capacity to 90,000 from 2,000.

He also recommended nasal and throat swabs, "but it's difficult for people to collect samples on their own, so it should be done by medics. However, we have yet to discuss the matter with the Hong Kong government."

Residents of Chuk Yuen public estate in Wong Tai Sin yesterday returned their throat swab specimens under the government's extended community testing program.

Some said the tutorial video on how to do the swab was easy to follow while some said they had to do additional online research and were still unsure whether they collected the samples correctly.

"It's a little uncomfortable to swipe the swab around your mouth cavity but I managed to finish the collection in a minute," a resident said.

But another resident surnamed Chan said her grandmother refused to put the swab in her throat, fearing she might break and swallow it.

"I had to help her in the end but I can't say I'm confident I did it right," she said. "Maybe it's better for professional nurses to perform the procedure because it's useless if samples are not taken correctly."

Hong Kong yesterday recorded 69 new cases, comprising four imported, 32 linked to previous local infections and 33 from unknown local sources. These took the city's tally to 4,313. There are also fewer than 20 preliminary positive patients awaiting confirmation.

The death toll rose to 65 as two more elderly women, 74 and 88, passed away. The 88-year-old was the ninth death from the Cornwall elderly home cluster in Tuen Mun.

Since the third wave of outbreaks emerged last month, 22 patients from elderly homes have died, with Cornwall and Kong Tai elderly home in Tsz Wan Shan each recording nine deaths.

In Sham Shui Po, King Fuk Nursing Home saw two deaths, and there were one each at Siu Sin Nursing Centre and at the Salvation Army Lung Hang Residence for Senior Citizens in Tai Wai.

The Centre for Health Protection's head of communicable disease branch, Chuang Shuk-kwan, said a 30-year-old woman diagnosed yesterday was believed to be linked to an infected Indonesian domestic helper, 40, who had stayed at Cheong Hing Mansion in Mong Kok.

The 30-year-old is a family member of the flat's landlord.

Chuang believed the unit was rented to different people on a daily rate but the landlord denied this.

Two more Indonesian helpers, 27 and 48, were diagnosed yesterday after they stayed in the same boarding house in Tsuen Wan with a previously infected maid.

Clusters at Kwai Tsing Container Terminal and a reservoir construction site in Fan Ling each saw one more patient.

jane.cheung@singtaonewscorp.com

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