Hong Kong third wave: three labs picked to help mainland China medical team conduct mass Covid-19 testing in the city

Three Hong Kong-based laboratories listed in mainland China will team up with the dozens of experts crossing the border to carry out large-scale coronavirus testing in the city, a government source has confirmed, bringing the total number of private companies involved in the screening programme to five.
A seven-member medical team from the mainland is already in Hong Kong to lay the groundwork for free Covid-19 testing in the community and on Tuesday visited the three labs, which include Kingmed Diagnostics and Hong Kong Molecular Pathology Diagnostic Centre, both subsidiaries of enterprises listed on the mainland.
The third laboratory supporting the mainland team is Shenzhen-headquartered BGI, which was also one of three designated earlier to conduct testing for high-risk clusters in Hong Kong under a programme predating the offer of help from over the border.
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The 60 clinical technicians from the mainland aimed to make use of the three newly designated laboratories to ramp up the city’s coronavirus testing capacity to 200,000 tests a day, from the current 20,000 to 30,000, their team leader Yu Dewen said on Monday.
Sunrise Diagnostic Centre, a unit under BGI, said its capacity alone could be increased fivefold, to 150,000 a day, under the pooling method, which involves testing five samples in a tube at one time.
On their third day in the city, the seven advance team members visited all three laboratories situated in Tai Po, Kwun Tong and Sheung Wan to understand their operations and processes for virus testing before formulating their plans.
“We are still working out on the concrete plan, the mainland experts will be offering advice, and mainland-linked laboratories, established in Hong Kong will provide support,” a government source said.
With the help of mainland authorities, the government is planning to carry out additional tests focusing on people with jobs that put them in frequent contact with the public, such as supermarket staff, workers with social welfare groups and others employed in public transport, sources earlier told the Post.
According to official records, all three laboratories – BGI, Kingmed and Hong Kong Molecular – are subsidiaries of biotechnology companies listed on the mainland. All of them have set up laboratories or nucleic acid testing centres in Hong Kong, which have government approval.
Veteran Chinese infectious disease expert Zhong Nanshan serves as the chairman of the Kingmed medical academic committee.
The remaining two private laboratories from the earlier designated facilities are Macau’s China Inspection Company and Hong Kong-based Prenetics.
The source said they would continue to assist with community testing, including those property management staff and restaurant workers categorised as high-risk groups.
The Post also reported on Monday that Hong Kong will build at least two temporary hospitals for Covid-19 patients and expand existing makeshift facilities with the help of mainland Chinese experts deployed in the city. It is understood that a team of six will arrive in the city this week for that purpose.
A source suggested that while land earmarked for the second phase of development of AsiaWorld-Expo (AWE) exhibition centre in Lantau, and another piece of land in Kai Tak, were being considered, the government intended to prioritise the development of the first temporary hospital at the phase two site.
The authorities would then see how that went before commissioning more facilities, but several lots of land had been identified, the source said, adding the Hospital Authority would start expanding the second hall of the existing conference centre with 400 beds next week.
A separate source added that hospital staff from non-urgent services, which might have been suspended, could be transferred to support the services at the extra makeshift facilities.
But details on how many people would be needed had not been determined yet, the source said, as it would depend on the service model and severity of patients sent there.
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