Hong Kong shifting to rapid Covid-19 tests to fight record outbreak

Residents wait in line to test for the Covid-19 outside a building at the Kwai Chung Estate public housing complex in Hong Kong, on Jan 22, 2022. PHOTO: AFP

HONG KONG (BLOOMBERG) - Hong Kong is changing its Covid-19-testing strategy to obtain faster results with self-administered kits as it battles to suppress its worst coronavirus outbreak to date.

The government will allow people with positive results to register the information online for follow-up without seeking confirmation in more sensitive nucleic-acid tests. The move is meant to "avoid resource duplication and time delay", the authorities said in a statement on Friday (Feb 26), promising more detailed information in due course.

"The demand for testing services keeps on growing due to the upsurge of epidemic," the government said. "Some citizens may not be able to obtain results after having provided their samples for days, and thus feel anxious during the period. This is clearly not a desirable situation."

The city registered a daily record of 21,979 reported coronavirus cases on Friday and 10,010 confirmed cases. Chief Executive Carrie Lam has ordered mandatory testing of the entire 7.4 million population three times in March, a tactic that has been deployed often in mainland China and is set to uncover even more infections.

Most people subject to the compulsory testing will now be able take a rapid test on their own instead of lining up at community testing centres.

Also under the new policy, positive results from nucleic-acid tests conducted by contractors will be immediately deemed as confirmed cases. For those in high-risk and high-exposure groups including airport and quarantine-centre workers, compulsory testing frequency will be reduced from once every two or three days to once a week.

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