HONG KONG (BLOOMBERG, XINHUA) - The Hong Kong government will empower doctors to mandate Covid-19 tests for patients suspected of having been infected by the coronavirus.
The measure will start from Saturday (Nov 28) and last till Dec 11, Secretary for Food and Health Sophia Chan said on Thursday.
Urging people to heed their doctors' instructions, she stressed that getting tested early is important in stopping silent transmission within the community, public broadcaster RTHK reported.
Ms Chan had said earlier that doctors would act according to their professional judgment in deciding who should be tested.
Local media HK01 reported that doctors are required to submit the names of patients who need to be tested and their contact details to the health authorities for follow-up.
The announcement comes as Hong Kong battles a fourth wave of infections, with a fast-expanding cluster linked to at least 21 dance studios. A total of 250 people linked to the studios have tested positive for coronavirus as at Wednesday.
By the end of Wednesday, there were a cumulative total of 5,866 confirmed Covid-19 cases in Hong Kong, including 108 deaths.
Entertainment outlets including bars and nightclubs are shut for seven days starting from Thursday - the third time since the Covid-19 pandemic began - to contain the growing dance studios cluster.
In her annual policy address on Wednesday, Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam said it is essential to take all necessary measures to strengthen epidemic control so as to achieve "zero infection".
"On breaking the virus transmission chain in the community, we mandate high-risk groups to undergo virus tests, and will provide voluntary virus testing service for people without symptoms on a wider scale, or may even implement a large-scale universal community testing again in a bid to achieve the target of zero infection," Mrs Lam said.
"During almost one year of our fight against the epidemic, Hong Kong has remained vigilant and committed," she said.