Voluntary saliva samples may become a must

Local | Erin Chan 30 Mar 2020

An expanded scheme to collect deep throat saliva samples to test all arriving travelers from overseas for the novel coronavirus could be made mandatory as Hong Kong tries to control Covid-19 spread from imported cases.

Beginning yesterday, all arrivals at the Hong Kong International Airport are being given a collection bottle and told to deliver the vial with their sample either at their home or the place where they are staying to specific clinics.

This follows a pilot scheme that randomly tested about 1,000 daily asymptomatic returnees from the US and Europe, which have been the hardest hit by Covid-19, as of March 19.

Secretary for Food and Health Sophia Chan Siu-chee told a TV program yesterday that 6,000 saliva collection bottles have been given away so far, with around 4,000 samples already collected.

“Authorities are considering whether it should be made mandatory for people to return the collection bottles,” she said.

“The government will keep monitoring the situation, and so far there is no need to enact legislation to demand everyone return the bottles, since the number of returned bottles has been on the rise.”

The expansion of the scheme came after concerns that countless countries have been experiencing “exponential growth” in their number of confirmed Covid-19 cases, the health minister said.

Hong Kong has seen 582 confirmed cases of Covid-19 as of yesterday, with most of them Hongkongers returning from overseas.

When asked about concerns venues such as karaoke centers are not covered by measures restricting public gatherings, including a ban on gatherings of more than four people for two weeks from yesterday, Chan explained karaokes are holders of“restaurant licences” and so have to abide by the new rules.


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