Asia Minute: Hong Kong’s Massive Testing Experiment

Aug 25, 2020

Testing is one of the many issues surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic. While the ability to get a test varies in different locations, one city in Asia is about to offer tests to all of its residents who want one.

A week from today, Hong Kong is going to kick off a massive experiment. City leaders want to test every resident over the age of 6 that they can for COVID-19 — in a place with a population of roughly 7.5 million people.

Testing centers will be set up across the city’s 18 districts, and will be open from 8 in the morning until 8 at night. The goal will be to finish them in a week, but Chief Executive Carrie Lam says they could take up to two weeks if needed.

The one-time tests will be free and voluntary — unlike previous testing rounds in the mainland Chinese cities of Wuhan and Dalian, which were mandatory.

The central Chinese government is involved with this — picking up a large part of the financial tab. Lam says the Chinese will pay for lab costs, while Hong Kong will pay for sample collection and transport, as well as promotion of the tests.

City officials say the tests will include nasal and throat swabs, and all physical material will be thrown out after testing — they say nothing will leave Hong Kong. 

Despite those assurances, some activists have voiced suspicion that DNA information could potentially wind up in the hands of Beijing authorities.

Residents who test negative will be notified by text.

Those who test positive will get a phone call from the health bureau to arrange for next steps.