It does not take a rapid test to confirm the Hong Kong government’s negative performance in fighting the worsening pandemic. The evidence – soaring infections and deaths, overcrowded hospitals, patients waiting helplessly at home, long queues for compulsory testing, delayed results, confusing messages, panic buying – is everywhere. If there is any positive sign, it would be the U-turn in recognising the results of self-test kits. This is a significant shift among watered-down responses to the escalating crisis of the fifth Covid-19 wave, but the way forward remains far from clear. Officials must better explain their strategy and be prepared for challenges arising from it. The move from one of the world’s toughest anti-Covid regimes towards self-testing and home quarantine has raised questions whether the city is finally learning to live with the virus as have many countries. Officials, however, still say they are adhering to the so-called early isolation and treatment approach under the dynamic zero strategy. But with no fewer than 220,000 of the 7.5 million population having been infected since January, living with the virus is a reality. Some previous measures, including compulsory testing orders and the use of the risk exposure “Leave Home Safe” app, have proved either unsustainable or meaningless. Days have passed since the government made its announcement, but the online platform for people to report infections using rapid antigen tests is still not ready. The government has said that it has procured more than 100 million kits for public use, but many households have yet to get one. Meanwhile, the market is flooded with an array of such products, many of which have not received official approval. In the absence of quality assurance, people are left wondering which kit to choose. Putting the new mechanism in place is just the first step. Given honesty is essential for the system to be effective and reporting is entirely voluntary, officials have warned of random checks on the authenticity of declarations, presumably to prevent people from making false reports for sick leave. On the other hand, some may not even bother to test and report to avoid bureaucracy and isolation. The necessary logistics and penalties must be carefully thought through. Lack of clarity on Hong Kong lockdown plans has fuelled fears, experts warn What matters, ultimately, is whether the city has the capacity to cope. Assuming more patients will be identified as the outbreak escalates in the near term, the growing demand for facilities and treatment will continue to put the government to the test. Authorities are already struggling to provide medical assistance to tens of thousands of patients currently waiting at home for isolation and treatment. Those with genuine needs must not be left on their own to fight the virus.