Explainer: How will Hong Kong's mass Covid-19 testing work?

  • A free, voluntary coronavirus testing scheme will begin September 1 and last about two weeks; the government hopes to test as many people as possible to break the chain of transmission 
  • Nearly everyone in the city with an HKID is eligible 
South China Morning Post |

Latest Articles

Hong Kong protests: Civil Human Rights Front submits application for National Day demonstration on October 1

Asking for a Friend: Help! Am I cheating on my girlfriend if I comment on other girls’ Instagram posts?

Hong Kong customs seizes more than HK$6 million in pangolin scales

Opinion: In the US 2020 presidential election, the voter is the real loser

For students in Myanmar, going back to school during Covid-19 brings extra challenges

The mass testing is targeted at almost everyone in Hong Kong with an identity card, though those with certain illness and young children are not suitable. Photo: SCMP/ Jonathan Wong

First announced a week ago, the Hong Kong government’s grand plan to test almost all – if not the whole of – the population for Covid-19 will be launched soon, with officials unveiling details and a timeline on Friday.

The one-off, voluntary scheme would begin in less than two weeks, Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor announced during a press briefing, as she made an appeal to the public to take part in putting the city – ravaged by a third wave of the pandemic since July – on the course to recovery.

“But at the end of the day, it is the conscientiousness and the civic responsibility of every Hong Kong citizen that counts,” she pleaded.

Here are some of the details you should know:

Are fabric face masks a part of our future?

Why does Hong Kong need mass testing?

Lam and some of the doctors believe expansive testing is one of the best ways to cut off the chain of transmission, by screening out those infected, although other doctors have suggested that it would not be cost-effective, especially when people are free to move around during the week of the testing. Nonetheless, Lam said it could at least provide some people with peace of mind. 

What is the timeline?

Secretary for the Civil Service Patrick Nip Tak-kuen, who is in charge, said the testing would begin on September 1, and would last seven days. Depending on the situation, it can be extended for seven more days, making it 14 days in total. 

Who are the targets?

Almost everyone in Hong Kong with an identity card, though not everyone is suitable. The testing will involve taking samples from the nasal cavity and throat, which means people suffering from illness involving those regions will not be suitable for testing. Neither are children under the age of six.

Why some people won't follow Covid-19 social distancing rules

How do people sign up?

While more details are to be announced, Nip said people would be required to make an appointment before being tested. They will be asked to fill in their names, identity card details and phone numbers, as well as their preferred date, time and location. 

Where to get tested?

The government will set up various testing centres across the city’s 18 districts, with each centre open from 8am to 8pm. Trained medical professionals, in protective gear, will help collect samples, while civil servants will be deployed to help with the registration process.

Social distancing unlikely to ease up before mid-September

What are the procedures?

Upon arriving at the centre, people will have their temperatures taken before being sent to a registration counter and, subsequently, a waiting area with social-distancing measures imposed. The medical professionals will then help take their samples.

How do I get the result?

Those who test negative will receive a text message on their phone. Those with positive results will be contacted by the Department of Health and sent to hospitals or isolation facilities for treatment.