1.8M Tested in Massive Hong Kong Testing Program

Αssociated Press

A medical professional puts on a pair of gloves at a makeshift testing site in the Queen Elizabeth Stadium in Hong Kong Tuesday, Sept. 1, 2020. (Anthony Kwan /Pool Photo via AP)

HONG KONG — Nearly 1.8 million Hong Kong residents took voluntary coronavirus tests as part of a massive community testing program, resulting in 42 cases being identified, the government said Tuesday.

The two-week testing program, which ended Monday, was aimed at identifying silent carriers of the coronavirus to cut the transmission chain in a wave of cases that began in July.

Although the total number of people tested fell short of the government’s initial estimate of four to five million, officials say the program met its objectives.

“The program ended smoothly, we have met the policy objective,” Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam said at a news conference. “We have identified confirmed cases, we’ve isolated them and given them treatment to cut the transmission chain.”

China’s central government provided resources and staff for the testing program in the city, and many Hong Kong residents expressed fear that DNA might be collected despite the Hong Kong government dismissing such concerns.

Since the outbreak’s peak in July — blamed in part on exemptions from quarantine requirements for airline staff, truck drivers from mainland China and sailors on cargo ships — cases have steadily dwindled.

Hong Kong reported no new local coronavirus infections on Tuesday for the first time in over two months.

The government also said it would further relax social-distancing measures, allowing bars, amusement parks and swimming pools to re-open. Restaurants will also be allowed to serve customers until midnight. However, a ban on public gatherings of more than four people remains in place.

Hong Kong has recorded 4,976 infections so far, including 101 deaths.