Secretary for the Civil Service Patrick Nip said registration for the citywide voluntary Covid-19 tests has been running smoothly, as the authorities confirmed around 553,000 people have already signed up as of 6 pm on Monday.
Based on the number of people who have signed up so far, some projected that less than two million people will eventually take part in the voluntary scheme.
But Nip told an RTHK radio programme that it’s hard to give an estimate, but it looks like people are eager to join.
He said one or two days after sample collection starts on Tuesday, the government will determine whether there is a need to extend the testing scheme, depending on how it’s received by the community.
Critics have said the scheme will not help control the coronavirus outbreak if not enough people take part. But Nip said it’s better than nothing, as a mandatory scheme would require change of legislation.
“The most ideal arrangement is of course a mandatory test that comes with a stay-at-home order. But any infection control work would depend on the actual situation of a society," he said.
“Our universal scheme has a clear goal, and we can see that it would be an important part in our efforts to control the third wave of outbreak."
The civil service chief, who is in charge of the government scheme, also said people, especially medical workers, who call for a boycott on political grounds should be condemned.
But callers to the programme – including people opposed to it and those who want to join – have criticised the scheme and how it will work.
One caller who identified herself as Ng said her worries were purely based on public health concerns.
“Think about it; we go to an indoor place, the person who takes the test before me would take off his mask, and get the wipe, he would perhaps cough or sneeze, and then I go up to the same spot to take off my mask," she said.
"Some findings say the virus would float in the air for some time. That’s why I choose not to take part. It’s not because of, as the Chief Executive suggested, people who try to smear the scheme.”
Another caller surnamed Wong said he wants to take the test, but doesn't know how to sign up. The online registration for the free tests had started from Saturday.
“I am an elderly person, as is my wife. I really want to sign up but I don’t know how to use the internet. My daughter is anti-government, and if I suggest I undergo the test, she would tell me off," he said.
"Almost all district councilors in my area belong to the opposition camp. So where does it leave people like me? Why can’t the government send out mobile test stations fitted in vehicles to help us?” he said, adding he had paid a lot of tax to the government when he was young.
Another caller, surnamed Chan, said she is grateful for the central government’s help, referring to mainland labs sent here to test the specimen, but said she doesn’t think the scheme will work in terms of reining in the virus.
“I support the Central Government’s assistance to Hong Kong. But Hong Kong is doing very poorly. It would not be effective if there’s no stay-at-home order. Even if you undergo the test today and come back with a negative result, you can’t be sure you would not get infected in the next 14 days.”
Last updated: 2020-08-31 HKT 21:11
Covid test registrations cross half a million mark
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