Coronavirus: Hong Kong to open four new testing centres starting in November, health minister says; three new cases confirmed

Lilian Cheng
·4-min read

Four long-term centres dedicated to Covid-19 testing will open from next month, Hong Kong’s health minister has said, as three new infections – all imported – were recorded on Saturday.

The latest cases – involving an aircrew member from Japan and two others from Germany and Pakistan – pushed the city’s tally to 5,323, with 105 related deaths.

Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor named the centres on Tuesday but did not say when they would begin operations. Health minister Professor Sophia Chan Siu-chee revealed on Saturday that the facilities would be housed in community centres in Quarry Bay, Yau Ma Tei, Sha Tin and Yuen Long. They will be open from 8am to 8pm, seven days a week, with the government outsourcing the testing to private firms.

Get the latest insights and analysis from our Global Impact newsletter on the big stories originating in China.

Relaxed Covid-19 rules draw revellers to Hong Kong party hub Lan Kwai Fong

Residents deemed at high risk can be screened for free while those requiring a negative test result to travel will have to pay.

Asked whether the cost could be lowered, Chan said the government had been discussing the matter with laboratories.

“We hope after the government has provided venues and assistance, the labs will be willing to lower the costs,” she said.

The Food and Health Bureau said further details on the testing centres would be announced in due course.

Chan also said a plan exempting Hongkongers living in mainland China from quarantine when they returned to the city would begin from the next month. That came as a 44-year-old man, who was exempted from quarantine under existing rules, was among the confirmed coronavirus cases on Friday, 24 days after his return from the mainland.

The health minister said she believed the man had not been infected on the other side of the border.

“Our risk assessment shows the pandemic situation on the mainland is very stable and there is no problem at all,” she said.

Chan said health authorities were still tracing the source and his travel records showed he returned from Shenzhen before the 14 days of the incubation period of the virus. The Post earlier reported he was an employee of an agency linked to Beijing’s liaison office who worked at its Shun Tak Centre branch in Sheung Wan.

Under the quarantine exemption plan, those eligible will have to produce a negative result from a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test based on a respiratory sample.

Chan said that a daily quota would also be set for the exemption.

Residents travelling from Hong Kong to the mainland still have to undergo a 14-day quarantine.

Meanwhile, more than 260 venues managed by the government will join a trial of a Covid-19 exposure notification app to be launched by the Innovation and Technology Bureau, according to a source.

Specific QR codes will be displayed in those venues – such as wet markets, swimming pools and sports centres. People who have downloaded the app will be able to scan the QR code when they enter the venue and press the “leave” button on the app when they exit.

A spokeswoman for the Office of the Government Chief Information Officer, which is under the bureau, said the data would only be stored on the users’ phones.

Air India banned from entering Hong Kong for fourth time, as city records two cases

Separately, visits will be allowed in eight infirmary hospitals starting from Wednesday. Each patient will be given a one-hour session with a registered visitor every week.

The hospitals include Wong Chuk Hang Hospital, Haven of Hope Hospital in Tseung Kwan O and Cheshire Home in Sha Tin.

The Hospital Authority said long-stay patients relied more heavily on the support from family members, and the eight hospitals had not received any Covid-19 patients. Such special visiting arrangements could be extended to other hospitals in future, depending on the pandemic situation, it said.

More from South China Morning Post:

This article Coronavirus: Hong Kong to open four new testing centres starting in November, health minister says; three new cases confirmed first appeared on South China Morning Post

For the latest news from the South China Morning Post download our mobile app. Copyright 2020.