The recent Government announcement to provide free COVID-19 testing for Hong Kong people from September in a new laboratory in Sheung Wan has triggered a lot of discussions in the community. According to official information, the initiative is on a voluntary basis rather than compulsory.
From a medical point of view, the purpose of a general testing programme is to improve testing coverage by making it more accessible for those who are worried that they might get contracted with the virus, help identify asymptomatic carriers and cut off transmission chains. It also serves to collect more data to assist further planning of the city’s strategy against the coronavirus. So, should I take the test? Read the following to help you decide…
1. People who have developed symptoms
In case you have developed symptoms, in particular fever, you should seek medical attention immediately instead of doing the test. In addition to COVID-19, fever could also be a sign for appendicitis, cholecystitis, acute gout attack and many more. In most of the cases, patients with these diseases could not afford to have their treatment delayed. So, choosing to do the test could mean a potential waste of precious time for prompt therapy.
2. Close contacts of a diagnosed COVID-19 patient
If unfortunately you are a close contact of a confirmed case, for example a family member, you will need to be quarantined and it is not a good idea to go out for testing. Moreover, as the Centre of Health Protection will test all close contacts, it is not worthwhile to take another test yourself.
3. People who suspect they to have been in contact with a COVID-19 confirmed person
You may consider taking a test whenever you think you might have been in contact or in proximity with confirmed cases, for example you live in the same building with or are a colleague of an infected person. Although the CHP does perform contact tracing for every confirmed case, that largely relies on the memory of the COVID-19 patients themselves, yet they may not recall each and every encounter. A test is therefore appropriate given there is genuine risk of exposure.
4. Ordinary citizens
If you work from home most of the time and observe proper precautions when going out, such as wearing masks, maintaining social distancing and performing hand hygiene frequently, it is a personal decision as to whether you want to take the test and help identify silent transmission chains.
Myth: Negative ≠ Immune
It must be stressed that participating in the universal testing does not result in any immunity against COVID-19 and there is always a chance one may get infected afterwards. Because of that, everyone must remain vigilant and adhere to the proper precautions.