Health authorities on Tuesday announced a major expansion in tests for the new coronavirus, aimed at enabling them to identify infected patients more quickly.
Starting on Wednesday, any adult patients who turn up to public hospitals or outpatient clinics with a fever and respiratory symptoms, or signs of pneumonia, will be asked to take marked containers home, and deliver a saliva sample back to the hospital or clinic the next day.
Authorities explained that they need to try to cough up some phlegm from deep within their throats first thing in the morning before they eat or brush their teeth, to increase the chances of an accurate diagnosis.
Patients will be shown a video with clear instructions, and authorities say the test is harmless, accurate and convenient.
Patients can expect results in two to three working days. Anyone with a positive test would be immediately sent to hospital for isolation and treatment, and those who test negative would get a text message.
Authorities say they don’t have an estimate as to how many people would be providing samples daily, but said government laboratories can test around five to six thousand samples per week.
A chief manager with the Hospital Authority, Lau Ka-hin, said the aim of the new take-home test is to detect patients quicker and treat them as soon as possible.
He said they'll review in a week to see if any adjustment to the scheme is needed.
The new measures come after a Chinese University study showed that Covid-19 patients were being isolated – on average – a full week after displaying symptoms.
A number of people – including the SAR’s latest confirmed case – had tested negative for the virus in initial tests, only to be confirmed as coronavirus patients in subsequent tests.
The 61st case of the virus in the city is a 32-year-old Filipino domestic helper whose first test had come back negative. She was admitted to hospital last Friday after her employer was found to have contracted the virus.
Doctors only ordered a second test after her X-rays showed signs of coronavirus infection. This test came back positive.
Authorities said she had fallen ill at the start of month, but took some over-the-counter medicine and thought she had recovered..
They suspect that she was infected at her employer's home as some family members had tested positive for coronavirus after attending a hotpot dinner.
Chuang Shuk-kwan from the Centre for Health Protection said authorities are now trying to track down some friends she had met for around an hour outside City Hall on February 9. All of them were reported to have worn face masks.
Health authorities confirmed late on Tuesday that a 58-year-old man from Kwun Tong had become the SAR's 62nd coronavirus patient. He developed a fever and chills a week ago and a cough on Saturday before being admitted to United Christian Hospital on Monday.
The man had travelled to Zhongshan in Guangdong province from January 23 to February 2 and Macau on February 5.
Last updated: 2020-02-18 HKT 21:26
Virus tests to be expanded with take-home kits
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