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CE urges mass participation in universal testing, unveils plans to secure vaccine

21 August 2020

By Daisy CL Mandap

The CE and her ministers at today's press briefing said they will be the first to volunteer for the universal testing

Chief Executive Carrie Lam has sent out a strong appeal to people in Hong Kong to take part in the one-off voluntary testing for Covid-19 which will start on Sept. 1, and set to last for a week.

In a press conference this afternoon, Aug 21, with six of her top officials, Mrs Lam also unveiled Hong Kong’s participation in a global alliance called COVAX that is pooling funds to develop a Covid-19 vaccine, and distribute it equitably among nations.

As only 20% of the population of each place is assured of getting the vaccine, Hong Kong has contacted vaccine manufacturers all over the world separately, in the hope of procuring an antidote as soon as possible. 
It has also appealed to the central government in the mainland for help, in case a vaccine is developed there first.

The media briefing was held shortly before the Centre for Health Protection reported 27 new infections on Friday, seven of them from unknown sources.

There were eight imported cases, six of them returnees from India, one each from the United States and Canada, and a cabin crew from Russia.

Among the 18 local infections, one was a resident at a care home in Kwai Chung. A resident in another elderly home in Tai Kok Tsui also tested preliminary positive.

As a safety precaution, about 130 elderly residents and staff at the two facilities will be evacuated and sent to quarantine centers.

While noting the decline in the number of new cases since the record high numbers posted in the second half of last month, CE Lam still urged caution.

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“Next week will be crucial, we will see if the downward trend will persist, or we will see a rebound,” she said.

She noted that the infection remains severe in Hong Kong. Starting from Jul 7, she said the number of cases rose from about 1,300 to more than 4,600.

Even more worrying, she said, is that 30-40% of the new cases have unknown sources. “The invisible transmission chains in the community is a cause for concern” the CE said.

That’s the reason all Hong Kong residents should take part in the universal testing exercise due to start in 11 days. “Everyone must do more to cut the chain of transmission,” she said.

The Civil Service Bureau, with its personnel numbering more than 180,000 will lead the exercise.

Civil Service Secretary Patrick Nip said the testing will be done at 150 community testing centers spread out across the city from 8am to 8pm, with one hour of disinfection in between. It will last from Sept 1-7, and could be extended for another week, depending on the need.

All residents, including migrant workers, could take part, except those with symptoms, nose and throat diseases, and children under six years old.

Throat and nose swabs will be taken from each resident who volunteers for the testing
Registration online will start on Aug 29, and will continue round-the-clock. Residents will have to register with their name, ID number and mobile phone number. A mixture of nose and throat swab tests will be conducted.

If the result is negative, the report will be sent via text message. If it’s positive, the patient will be notified by the Department of Health, and sent to a hospital for isolation and treatment.

Everyone is assured of privacy, as the medical personnel administering the test will only be given a bottle with a barcode that hides the person’s identity, which is known only to the DH.

Secretary for Food and Health Sophia Chan says she hopes at least 5 million people would take part in the exercise.

“The more tests we do to identify more cases, the less we have to worry about,” she said.

But Lam was quick to say there government was not targeting a specific percentage of Hong Kong’s 7.5 million population, hinting this could again be used to criticize the government.

“I hope the media can be objective and positive to report on this, and to encourage the public to participate.”

If the situation continues to improve, she said the government might loosen some restrictions, such as the ban on dine-in at restaurants after 6pm, and the reopening of some business establishments.

Lam repeatedly thanked the central government in Beijing for its help in providing universal testing for Hong Kong people, and expanding the capacity of the treatment facilities at AsiaWorld-Expo and the soon-to-be built hospital next to it.

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