CK Life Sciences International Holdings, the pharmaceutical unit of one of Hong Kong’s largest conglomerates, said it is introducing test kits to help the city’s hospitals and laboratories speed up their diagnosis of coronavirus infections.
The unit of CK Hutchison has the global distribution license of a test kit developed by Singapore’s Agency for Science, Technology and Research and the city state’s Tan Tock Seng Hospital, according to a press statement. The test kit, which can deliver a diagnosis within two to four hours, had been in use at six public hospitals and a private medical institution in Singapore since February, CK Life said.
“[It] is a timely option to help expedite the testing of the increasing number of suspected Covid-19 cases in Hong Kong,” said Melvin Toh, CK Life’s vice-president and chief scientific officer. “The testing kit enables more health care institutions and laboratories, be they public or private, to perform testing, thereby easing prompt isolation and treatment of patients.”
The introduction of the test kits comes as the coronavirus pandemic is developing a so-called second wave of worldwide infections in Europe and North America. Confirmed cases in Hong Kong jumped by 43 on Thursday, in the city’s third-highest daily increment since January, bringing the total number to 453, with four deaths.
The test kits will only be distributed through hospitals and medical institutions, and not direct to consumers, said CK Life, whose 45-per cent shareholder CK Hutchison also owns the A/S Watson network of chemists in 25 markets around the world. CK Life declined to disclose the unit cost of each test kit.
“We believe the introduction of the diagnostic kit resonates well with the Hong Kong government’s efforts in testing an increased number of Hong Kong residents,” said Alan Yu, CK Life’s vice-president and chief operating officer. “Being a global distributor of the product, our priority is to make the testing kit available in Hong Kong.”
CK Life is not the only pharmaceutical company that is developing test kits. Shanghai Fosun Pharmaceutical (Group), one of China’s largest pharmaceutical producers, said it has received the green light by the country’s drug regulator to market a Covid-19 test kit capable of a diagnosis in two hours.
“Automated testing can reduce the risk of operator infection, reduce the risk of cross-contamination in the laboratory and improve testing efficiency,” Fosun Pharmaceutical’s Chairman Chen Qiyu said.
Fosun’s test kit has also been approved for distribution in the European Union, a substantial market for the conglomerate, which owns a variety of businesses from Club Med resorts to Lanvin luxury boutiques to one of Portugal’s largest insurers and hospital chains. Europe has surpassed mainland China as the new epicentre for the global pandemic, with Italy, Spain and Germany among the world’s five most-infected countries.
The coronavirus has sickened 74,000 people in Italy alone on Thursday, claiming 7,500 lives. Spain’s confirmed cases jumped to 47,000 with the death toll at 3,400. In Germany, 31,554 people have caught the virus, with 149 deaths, according to World Health Organisation data.
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