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Government adjusts nucleic acid testing service starting March 1
     The Government announced today (February 17) that, in view of the latest developments of the COVID-19 epidemic and the overall demand for nucleic acid testing, starting from March 1 (Wednesday), the requirement for nucleic acid tests for public hospitals and residential care homes for the elderly (RCHEs) and the residential care homes for persons with disabilities (RCHDs) will be replaced by rapid antigen tests (RATs). Moreover, from the same day onwards, free nucleic acid testing service will no longer be provided at the community testing network, and the operation of nucleic acid testing will be scaled down.
Adjustments to nucleic acid testing service
     With the epidemic situation entering a new stage as well as a new mode adopted for management and handling of the epidemic, starting from March 1, the Government will change the nucleic acid test requirement applicable to staff and visitors of public hospitals, RCHEs and RCHDs as well as residents of residential care homes (RCHs) to RATs. In order to continue protecting targeted groups and key premises, visitors to public hospitals and RCHs are still required to undergo an RAT within 24 hours prior to their visit and obtain a negative result before they can visit. Clinical staff of public hospitals, as well as staff and residents of RCHs, should also continue to undergo an RAT once a day to minimise the risk of virus transmission to patients in public hospitals and individuals in RCHs.
     Members of the public with symptoms should seek medical attention promptly. Infected persons who are at high risk or have developed obvious symptoms (such as fever, coughing, shortness of breath, vomiting and diarrhoea) should seek medical advice as soon as possible for timely treatment.
     As all compulsory nucleic acid testing requirements have been completely lifted, the Government will also cease the provision of free nucleic acid testing service at community testing centres and community testing stations (CTC/CTSs) starting from March 1, whereas self-paid nucleic acid testing service will be maintained.
Scaling down operation of community testing network
     The demand for nucleic acid testing service has substantially dropped and will decline further. However, some members of the public still need to undergo nucleic acid tests due to travelling or personal needs, while certain countries and regions still require persons arriving from Hong Kong to undergo pre-departure tests. In this connection, starting from March 1, the Government will suitably reduce the number of CTC/CTSs. A total of 21 CTC/CTSs with higher usage (see Annex) will be retained to continue to provide self-paid nucleic acid testing service for citizens who need to obtain test results (such as certifications for work or travelling purposes). The remaining 64 existing CTC/CTSs will cease operation from the same day, with relevant venues to be reverted to their original uses in a progressive manner.
     For better utilisation of resources, the opening hours of the 21 CTC/CTSs will be adjusted to from 10am to 8pm every day while they will be closed from 1.30pm to 2pm/2.30pm for deep cleaning and disinfection. Unless requested otherwise by members of the public, throat swabs will be used for self-paid testing services. Citizens may also opt for other specimen collection methods including taking nasal swabs, nasopharyngeal swabs or combined nasal and throat swabs according to their own needs, such as for meeting the entry requirements of their travel destinations. For details of the self-paid testing service and pricing arrangements, please refer to the following webpage: www.communitytest.gov.hk/en/about/. "Express self-paid service" is primarily intended for providing greater convenience for individual citizens in need with limited quota on a first-come, first-served basis.
     Apart from those 21 CTC/CTSs, a rapid nucleic acid testing centre operating 24 hours a day is set up at Hong Kong International Airport to enable travellers to undergo self-paid tests prior to departure and obtain results within two hours.
     A Government spokesman said, "While retaining a certain number of CTC/CTSs in various districts across the city to provide convenient self-paid testing service for citizens in need, more than 60 community and leisure venues will be released and reverted to their original uses through the adjustments. The Government will continue to review the demand for nucleic acid testing and maintain close communication with testing contractors to make further adjustments to the number and service hours of testing facilities as necessary according to actual circumstances, thereby enabling the society to keep making steady strides along the path to normalcy."
Ends/Friday, February 17, 2023
Issued at HKT 19:58
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