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Delays to results making testing meaningless: expert

2021-03-01 HKT 12:20
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  • Dr Leung Chi-chiu says serious delays in coronavirus test results render the tests a waste of time. File photo: RTHK
    Dr Leung Chi-chiu says serious delays in coronavirus test results render the tests a waste of time. File photo: RTHK
Wendy Wong reports
The government came under heavy criticism on Monday over serious delays in sending out coronavirus test results, with an infectious disease expert warning this is making the testing meaningless.

Authorities have been expanding testing in a bid to detect virus carriers, requiring workers in some sectors such as the catering trade to get checked for Covid-19 regularly as social distancing rules are relaxed. Many people are also ordered to get tested when coronavirus cases are reported at their workplaces.

But some callers to an RTHK programme complained they had waited for days for their coronavirus test results to come back.

A woman surnamed Wong said she waited for nine days after submitting a deep throat saliva sample.

“I was confused because I was told I would get the result within three days, during which I should stay at home,” she said.

Another caller, also surnamed Wong, said she waited for a week.

“Our company didn’t let us go back to work until we got the result. We had to take unpaid leave during this period. I lost thousands of dollars in salary,” she said.

A specialist in respiratory medicine, Leung Chi-chiu, criticised the government for suddenly boosting testing orders while failing to engage more private laboratories to do the work.

“We suddenly change the policy and a lot of people need to get the tests within a short time and yet we haven’t arranged for the service," he said.

"We have not arranged a sufficient number of laboratories to undertake the tests and that is the main problem."

Leung said such a serious delay in results coming back renders the tests meaningless.

“If we delay for more than a few days, even if we get the results, it will be too late to control the spread of the virus because the disease spreads most rapidly within the first few days after symptom onset,” he said.