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Global Times

Whether to conduct citywide testing a decision for HKSAR govt to make

Global Times

By Leng Shumei Source: Global Times Published: 2020/8/5 22:48:30

It is up to the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) government to decide whether to launch a citywide COVID-19 nucleic acid testing, but as long as they seek help, the central government will actively provide support to them, an official from the national health commission said Wednesday amid heated discussions on whether it is necessary and possible for Hong Kong to have citywide screening.

When asked how long such a program would take, Jiao Yahui, deputy head of medical policy and administration bureau under the National Health Commission (NHC), said at a press conference that it depends on the Hong Kong regional government's ability to mobilize the public and the degree of cooperation of Hong Kong residents.

Jiao noted that if the Hong Kong government seeks help from the central government on testing, it will spare no efforts to support the city, like the assistance it has provided in building makeshift hospitals upon the request of the HKSAR government.

Under the Hong Kong regional government's request, a team of seven from the Chinese mainland has arrived in Hong Kong to help with nucleic acid testing. The HKSAR government has also contacted three mainland testing institutes, which already started working in Hong Kong, Jiao said.

Support from the mainland to help Hong Kong combat the virus has met some noise, including rumors that Hong Kong residents' bio-information will be collected and misused. Some Hong Kong medical groups cited the different medical systems and language barriers as excuses to oppose mainland support.

Hong Kong on Wednesday reported 85 new cases, bringing the total reported in the city to 3,755. Cluster transmissions have been reported in wet markets, sparking wide concerns as experts have said that the damp environment in these places is conducive to the spread of the virus.

"The situation in Hong Kong is still severe," Zeng Guang, chief epidemiologist of the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, told the Global Times on Wednesday.

Zeng suggests Hong Kong learn from the model used in Beijing - starting from epicenters such as the Xinfadi wholesale market for Beijing and gradually expanding the testing range according to epidemiological investigations - to effectively curb the virus spread.

Horace Cheung Kwok-kwan, lawmaker and vice-chairman of the Democratic Alliance for Betterment and Progress, told media Tuesday that he had proposed citywide testing to the authorities, which responded they were willing to expand the scope of testing in the near future and details would be released in two weeks.

Jin Dongyan, a professor at the School of Biomedical Sciences at the University of Hong Kong, previously told the Global Times that citywide testing is not necessary in Hong Kong as he believes the local situation is under control and it would be a waste, as a test result is only valid for a few days.

Some Hong Kong experts echoed Jin, noting that the number of daily new cases in Hong Kong has declined to under 100 for three consecutive days.

But some experts noted the number of daily new cases may fail to show the whole picture when so many people are not tested.

"The number of daily new cases is just a tip of the iceberg, and it is still unclear what is beneath the surface," Zeng said. He said that based on experience in mainland cities, one test is enough for most people. Only a few people, like those with an abnormally long incubation period, need multiple tests.

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