Mainland firms to help test 400,000 at low cost

Local | Wallis Wang 15 Jul 2020

Two mainland companies will assist the government's Covid-19 testing efforts, charging HK$300 for work per sample, sources said.

Amid the resurgence of the coronavirus, Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor on Monday revealed that the government is in talks with two private laboratories on providing Covid-19 tests for high-risk groups.

The two companies are believed to be Shenzhen-based BGI Group, which has set up special "Fire Eye" Covid-19 testing labs in 13 mainland cities, and China Certification & Inspection Group, which has been conducting tests in Macau since May 7.

The two labs will be responsible for testing more than 400,000 residents whose occupations are considered as high risk, including workers in elderly care homes, restaurants and property management companies, as well as taxi drivers.

Although Lam believes the cost of the large-scale campaign would be lower than the local price of around HK$1,200 per test, she said it could still cost more than HK$100 million in total.

The labs will conduct the tests here and samples will not be sent to the mainland, sources said.

Lam said discussions have entered the final stages and the collaboration may start as early as this week.

She added that Hong Kong has been criticized for the high cost of its Covid-19 tests due to low testing ability. She hoped an improvement of the private sector's testing capacity could effectively reduce testing fees.

She said the government is also enhancing its testing capacity in the public sector to pick up silent carriers of the virus in the community.

"We will boost the daily Covid-19 test numbers to 8,000 from next month, when additional manpower and equipment are on board," Lam said.

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