Nov 27, 2020 07:47 PM

Zhong Nanshan Calls for Mass Testing to Tackle Hong Kong’s Third Wave of Covid-19 Infections

What’s new: Prominent infectious disease expert Zhong Nanshan suggested that Hong Kong should conduct another round of mass testing amid the latest coronavirus surge in the city.

Speaking at a health care and biotech conference in Shenzhen on Friday, Zhong pointed out that the primary issue for Hong Kong now is to distinguish healthy from infected people, cutting the chain of transmission of the virus as soon as possible.

The prominent epidemiologist’s proposal came as Carrie Lam, Hong Kong’s chief executive, called for mandatory testing of high-risk groups in her 2020 policy address Wednesday.

It would be difficult to conduct a compulsory test of every one in Hong Kong, as it could take as long as four weeks to test the population of 7 million, Lam noted in Wednesday’s press conference, saying that the price of a lockdown was hard for the economy, citizens and government to afford.

Rather, Lam said that mass Covid-19 tests targeting infection clusters would be implemented, as these would only lock down certain areas at any one time.

Leung Chun-ying, the vice-chairman of the national committee also showed his support for mass testing on social media, saying that this is the only game in town and the government should take a strong stance.

The background: Hong Kong confirmed 81 local infections Thursday, including 75 locally transmitted infections. Confirmed cases have soared in the last week to 409, breaking an earlier handful of cases per day.

Dance club patrons have become the largest infection cluster in the latest outbreak, with cumulative infections among clubbers reaching 311.

Early in September, the Hong Kong government promoted a voluntary nucleic acid test program among its communities, with roughly 1.7 million citizens participating out of around 8 million people, with a Hong Kong-wide infection rate of 0.002%. Zhong said this ratio showed that insufficient testing has taken place.

Hong Kong’s capability to conduct mass testing has been improving. The Health Authority and Center for Health Protection can handle 7,000 to 8,000 samples per day, while private laboratories can test over 100,000 samples a day.

Quick Takes are condensed versions of China-related stories for fast news you can use.

Contact editor Heather Mowbray (heathermowbray@caixin)

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