Hong Kong starts mass virus tests undermined by distrust of China

Hong Kong launched a mass coronavirus testing scheme on Tuesday, but calls for millions to take up the offer have been undermined by deep distrust of the government following China’s crushing of the city’s democracy movement.

The voluntary tests are part of an attempt to stamp out a third wave of infections that began in late June and saw the densely populated city reimpose economically painful social distancing measures.

But the programme has been hampered by a limited response due to the involvement of mainland Chinese testing firms and doctors — and swirling public fears of the harvesting of data and DNA as Beijing cracks down on calls for democratic reform.

Since registration began on Saturday, 510,000 people have signed up to take the free tests — around seven percent of the city’s 7.5 million population.

But health experts advising the government have said as many as five million people might need to be tested for the scheme to comprehensively uncover hidden transmissions and end the current wave.

Hong Kong has recorded just over 4,800 infections since the virus first hit the city in late January but about 75 percent of those cases were detected since the start of July.

But the programme has been hampered by a limited response due to the involvement of mainland Chinese testing firms and doctors — and swirling public fears of the harvesting of data and DNA as Beijing cracks down on calls for democratic reform.

Since registration began on Saturday, 510,000 people have signed up to take the free tests — around seven percent of the city’s 7.5 million population.

But health experts advising the government have said as many as five million people might need to be tested for the scheme to comprehensively uncover hidden transmissions and end the current wave.

Hong Kong has recorded just over 4,800 infections since the virus first hit the city in late January but about 75 percent of those cases were detected since the start of July. (AFP | Su Xinqi)

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