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Global Times

Central govt to send COVID-19 testing personnel to HK, help build quarantine facility

Global Times

By Zhang Hui Source: Global Times Published: 2020/7/31 20:58:40

The Chinese central government will send mainland testing personnel to Hong Kong to help expand nucleic acid tests and help the city build temporary quarantine and treatment centers to contain the COVID-19, the Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office of the State Council said on Friday.

The office said the decision was made based on a request from the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) government.

The office's decision came as Hong Kong's coronavirus epidemic has worsened since early July, which has seen its Legislative Council (LegCo) elections postponed to September 2021.

Taking strict and effective measures to control the spread of the virus as soon as possible has become the most important and pressing task for Hong Kong, the office said.

Hong Kong is experiencing its worst COVID-19 spike since January, Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam said on Friday.

Hong Kong's daily new COVID-19 cases reached over 100 for the 10th consecutive day on Friday, with 121 cases. Among them, 118 were locally transmitted. On Thursday, the city reported a record 149 confirmed cases in a single day.

Many Hong Kong residents have been urging the central government's help in containing the spread of the virus for two weeks.

Stanley Ng Chau-pei, the president of the Hong Kong Federation of Trade Unions, proposed as early as July 10 that the Hong Kong government collect samples and send them to the Chinese mainland for testing, or that the Chinese mainland send medical teams to Hong Kong for the city to receive full testing.

Hung Kam-in, a member of the Kwun Tong District Council in Hong Kong and a volunteer for a local district community who has called on the Hong Kong government to invite nucleic acid testing institutes and medical resources from the Chinese mainland, told the Global Times on Friday that more and more Hong Kong residents have been urging the government to conduct citywide tests this week. He said 22 clinics with each having a capacity for 110 COVID-19 tests every day is far from enough.

One of the Chinese mainland's experiences in containing the virus is expanding active screening, as half of the patients in Beijing's fresh coronavirus epidemic in June were found through active nucleic acid testing, Wang Guangfa, a respiratory expert at Peking University First Hospital, told the Global Times on Friday.

"We don't have enough medical staff to collect samples at those clinics, so many residents have to take a sample container home and collect their saliva and send it back for testing," Hung said, noting that unprofessional sample collecting could lead to inaccurate results.

The steep test fee of between HK$900 ($116) and HK$2,000 was also a burden for some low-income groups, Hung said.

The introduction of possible test kits and test personnel from the mainland is expected to lower the test costs, and also improve the accuracy of the test, Hung said.

Shenzhen-based BGI Group has already started nucleic acid testing in Hong Kong, and the manager of the BGI's genetic laboratory in Hong Kong said the laboratory carried out 5,000 tests a day at the company laboratory in Tai Po, Hong Kong media reported.

Aside from insufficient testing, Hong Kong is also short of hospital beds. A Hospital Authority official said on Friday that 100 confirmed patients have been waiting to be admitted.

Hung said that a patient in the community where he works has waited at home for four or five days, and other residents in the community were quite worried about the infection risks.

Hong Kong last week activated a resort-converted community quarantine facility for COVID-19 patients at Lei Yue Mun Park and Holiday Village in Chai Wan, also known as the Hong Kong makeshift hospital.

Sing Tao Daily reported that Hong Kong plans to build another makeshift hospital at the Asia World Expo, which is expected to offer 1,000 beds.

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