Enhanced lab testing explained

March 9, 2020

(To watch the full press briefing with sign language interpretation, click here.)


The Centre for Health Protection (CHP) today said it is providing support to private medical practitioners and answering their enquiries on the enhanced laboratory surveillance with testing for COVID-19 at private clinics.


The centre's Communicable Disease Branch Head Dr Chuang Shuk-kwan told a press briefing this afternoon that only its microbiology laboratory and public hospitals can test for the virus, as there are currently no commercial kits available for the private sector.


"Because we know that many people may not present with very severe symptoms or they may not have an epidemiological indicator that they are a case, so they may not be classified as a suspected case.


"Then this patient with mild symptoms, just like a normal flu, they may go to visit their own doctors at the present moment, so private practitioners have no way to test them, except for referring them to the public hospital general outpatient or Accident & Emergency Department for admission.


"In order to assist them, we will provide free testing to support the laboratories."


Dr Chuang noted that private medical practitioners take throat samples to diagnose a patient's illness and send them to a laboratory, so the CHP hoped to normalise COVID-19 testing into the doctors' practice.


"If they take a sample from the patient they can send it to their own laboratory, and their laboratory can send the specimen to our laboratory so we can provide free testing - that's how it works.


"We want to normalise the testing to suit their own practice. Of course, after we issued the letter last week, we understand many doctors are very concerned because this is a new thing and it's a new virus and new testing."


The centre had sent a letter to private doctors to solicit their support to collect respiratory specimens from patients presenting with fever or respiratory symptoms, especially those with a travel history outside of Hong Kong within 14 days before the onset of symptoms.


"In the letter we also provided an enquiry phone number. Our laboratory staff colleagues are receiving many enquiries concerning this, so they are solving their enquiries."

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