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Asia Minute: Hong Kong’s Surge Testing Underway

Anthony Kwan /Pool Photo via AP
The makeshift testing site is seen at the Queen Elizabeth Stadium in Hong Kong Tuesday, Sept. 1, 2020.

As surge testing for COVID-19 continues around Oahu, a similar effort is taking place elsewhere in the Pacific, but on an even bigger scale. Hong Kong’s government wants to give a test to every resident who wants one, but so far, the response has been mixed.

Free testing for COVID-19 is now underway in Hong Kong, and will continue for at least a week – maybe longer.

Tuesday was the first day of the roll-out, and the government says that by 8 p.m. local time, more than 650,000 people had signed up to get tested. That’s roughly 9% of Hong Kong’s population of 7.5 million.

Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam says there’s no specific target number for the tests — although she and her entire cabinet took them on the first day, along with about 126,000 fellow Hong Kongers.

Authorities say about 8,000 of them were walk-ins.

There are 141 testing centers spread around the city — a little less than a quarter of them are already booked for the week, though city officials say they’ll add more slots to accommodate additional people.

Activists, opposition politicians and some medical groups have called for a boycott of the tests. Some distrust the role of the Beijing government — which is funding much of the testing, and has promised no testing material or DNA information will leave Hong Kong.

About a month ago, Hong Kong’s daily new case count was in the triple digits, but following expanded distancing measures, tighter rules on mask wearing and other steps, Tuesday’s new case count was down to 12.

Bill Dorman has been the news director at Hawaiʻi Public Radio since 2011.
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