Six Covid-19 patients have been found from 128,000 samples collected from mass virus tests over two days in Hong Kong.
The six showed positive results after retesting, said Chan Hon-yee, director of the Health Department. As of 1pm on Thursday, about 850,000 people had registered online for the free tests while 370,000 people had samples collected.
Of the six, four had been infected earlier and had recovered. The remaining two will be counted in the Thursday figure, which will be announced on Friday.
One of the two newly identified patients is a 63-year-old man who has not been at work since June and lived with his family in Wah Fung Gardens on Lai King Hill Road. He had visited wet markets in Kwai Shing West Estate and Sham Shui Po.
Another is a 22-year-old woman who lived with her parents in Siu Hong Court in Tuen Mun. She had meals at restaurants during the incubation period.
Yuen Kwok-yung, a microbiologist at the University of Hong Kong, said the number of patients identified so far was low but the scheme was worth running because any case could result in an outbreak. Yuen said more people would take the tests if the number of infections rebounded.
Before the universal virus test scheme began on Tuesday, the government said the number of samples tested could reach 300,000 per day. However, as of Thursday morning, only 49,000 samples were tested.
Alex Li Wai-chun, chairman of the Hong Kong Association of Medical Laboratories, said there could be some logistics problems initially. Li said it would take one more day to see whether the flow was smooth.
Leung Chi-chiu, chairman of the advisory committee on communicable diseases at the Hong Kong Medical Association, said it was not satisfactory that test results could not be obtained within 24 hours. Leung said the number of participants would determine whether the scheme was deemed successful.
David Hui, chairman of the Department of Medicine and Therapeutics at The Chinese University of Hong Kong, said even if fewer than two million people were tested, the data would still give important information for authorities to adjust infection control measures. He has said previously that he hoped at least five million people would take part in the tests.
If there are no further outbreaks in the next one or two weeks, there will be a good chance that restaurants will be allowed to serve up to four people per table, instead of the current two, Hui said.
The Center for Health Protection said Thursday that eight cases were recorded in the 24 hours on Wednesday, including one imported case, three that could be linked to previous cases and four with unknown sources.
Health Secretary Sophia Chan said the ban on public gatherings of more than two people could not be relaxed yet because there were unidentified carriers and infection chains still in the community. Relaxation of social-distancing measures had to be done in an orderly and gradual manner to minimize the risk of a resurgence of cases.
“We don’t want to relax everything at the same time as that would lead to a high risk of infection. In particular, when we already know there are invisible patients and infection chains in the community,” she said. “We have to be careful with every step we take.”