Government adjusts evaluation criteria for COVID-19 nucleic acid test results
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     The Government announced today (January 13) that the evaluation criteria for COVID-19 nucleic acid test results will be adjusted with effect from January 16. Test results issued from that day with a Ct value of 35 or above would be regarded as negative for purposes other than clinical management.

     In view of the development of the epidemic and given that case results of COVID-19 nucleic acid tests with a Ct value of 35 or above are generally not associated with infectiousness, the Centre for Health Protection (CHP) of the Department of Health, after assessing relevant risks, decided that persons with results of nucleic acid tests at a Ct value of 35 or above would not be regarded as confirmed cases starting from 0.00am on January 16. In this regard, relevant persons would not be issued with isolation orders (i.e. no home isolation would be required, nor would they be sent to community isolation facility). A Government spokesman said that this arrangement is conducive to further resumption of normalcy in society as a whole.

     Starting from January 16, all local COVID-19 RT-PCR testing institutions recognised by the Hong Kong SAR Government (www.coronavirus.gov.hk/pdf/List_of_recognised_laboratories.pdf) (including community testing centres/stations in various districts) will regard all those results of nucleic acid tests with a Ct value of 35 or above as negative for purposes other than clinical management. All test results issued since that day will adopt the adjusted evaluation criteria, regardless of whether the specimen collection was carried out on or before January 16. The above adjusted criteria also apply to free and self-paid tests conducted by community testing centres/stations, and the self-paid negative test reports can also be used for cross-boundary travelling purposes.

     The CHP has notified the private medical testing institutions recognised by the Government of the aforesaid adjustments to make corresponding changes and implement relevant arrangements.

     The Government spokesman says, "For persons who tested positive before January 16 by nucleic acid tests with a Ct value of 35 or above and are still holding isolation orders that are in force, the CHP will notify them by SMS before noon on January 16 that they are no longer required to undergo isolation and their isolation orders are cancelled. The Government will also arrange discharge of relevant persons in isolation facilities in an orderly manner.

     "If isolated persons do not receive active notification by the CHP, they must continue to undergo isolation in accordance with the conditions of the isolation orders until they obtain negative rapid antigen test (RAT) results for two consecutive days starting from the 4th day after their positive test."

     Separately, as there is no Ct value for RAT which has a lower sensitivity than nucleic acid test, positive test by RAT indicates a higher viral load. Hence, the aforesaid arrangement does not affect all positive cases with positive RAT results reported through the "Declaration System for Individuals Tested Positive for COVID-19 Using Rapid Antigen Test" and they should continue to be isolated according to the conditions as originally stipulated in their isolation orders.

     ‚ÄčThe spokesman reminds members of the public and passengers that they may conduct self-paid tests at accredited medical testing institutions (including community testing centres/stations) to obtain test result report for travelling purposes. Currently, all persons entering the Mainland from Hong Kong must hold negative results of self-paid nucleic acid test. If the results are positive (i.e. Ct value below 35), regardless of its Ct value, they cannot enter the Mainland.

Ends/Friday, January 13, 2023
Issued at HKT 15:40

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