Antibodies test right at airport in the pipeline

Top News | Wallis Wang 11 Jun 2021

People arriving in Hong Kong could be given an antibodies test by finger prick or traditional drawing of blood at the airport, government adviser David Hui Shu-cheong says.

Using a syringe to draw blood is the more traditional and accurate way to test for antibodies, but authorities are also looking at finger-prick tests, which are more convenient, Hui said.

Two scientific committees have recommended that the government shorten the quarantine period for those who arrive from low- and medium-risk areas, are vaccinated and have tested positive for antibodies.

On radio yesterday, Hui said the Department of Health would arrange for travelers to take the blood test on arrival at the airport, where they would also need to undergo Covid-19 tests. The results could be available within half an hour.

The Hospital Authority is studying the finger-prick tests to see if they are reliable, Hui said.

"The traditional blood tests with a syringe would definitely be more accurate," he said. "As for finger-prick tests, there are many types of them in the market and the quality varies. So the Hospital Authority is testing them."

Hui said most people would test positive for antibodies 14 days after receiving both doses of vaccine.

But some people, especially those who are taking anti-rejection drugs after a transplant, may not be able to produce antibodies after vaccination and so their quarantine period could not be shortened, he said.

The relaxation of quarantine measures for vaccinated people would not pose a risk of the virus spreading.

"Only people from low- and medium-risk areas could see their quarantine period shortened. They are also required to undergo a Covid-19 test every two to three days at home," he said.

Ho Pak-leung, head of the University of Hong Kong's Centre for Infection, said on another radio show that the antibodies test by blood drawing is quite mature and effective on vaccinated people.

He suggested that the Department of Health use finger-prick tests for unvaccinated people.

The traditional Covid-19 test is not 100 percent accurate and some cases could not be detected, Ho said, adding that the antibodies test would help prevent the virus spreading.

Separately, Hui said the elderly who are able to receive the flu vaccine can also get Covid-19 shots, stressing that hundreds of millions of doses have been administered in the world.

The elderly with high blood pressure, high blood lipids and high blood sugar are in greater need of vaccination.

"As long as their situation is well-controlled, they have absolutely no problem getting vaccinated," he said.

Some people in Hong Kong, including frontline family doctors, have a misconception that people with metabolic diseases could not be vaccinated, Hui said, adding those concerns are unnecessary.

Meanwhile, the government said it will review the travel bubble scheme with Singapore authorities and announce further arrangements early next month.

A spokesman said the two governments remain committed to launching the scheme under stringent health protocols.

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