Govt to phase out deep-throat saliva tests

The government said late on Tuesday it’s moving to phase out the use of self-collected deep throat saliva tests in favour of nasal and throat swabs taken by professionals in an effort to improve the effectiveness of mandatory Covid-19 testing.

From Wednesday, anyone subject to a compulsory testing notice because they’ve been in the same location as a confirmed case will have to have a sample taken by a professional, as will anyone connected to schools that experience outbreaks of upper respiratory tract infection or influenza-like illness.

The new rules also apply to people who are taking tests after the completion of hotel quarantine, as well as travellers arriving from the mainland or Macau under the newly launched, quarantine-free Return2hk and Come2hk schemes.

“Risk-based, frequent and accurate virus testing has all along been a key to Hong Kong’s success in the fight against the epidemic,” a government spokesman said. “The new arrangement will enhance the reliability of compulsory testing, making it more effective in the course of securing the protective barrier of Hong Kong.”

The administration says people will be able to give samples at 18 community testing centres, which can be booked online, or at recognised medical testing centres, as well as at mobile collection centres that will be deployed depending on need.

Officials say they’ll announce later how the rules will be applied to other people subject to mandatory testing, such as staff at the airport and quarantine hotels, as well as people heading out on so-called “cruises to nowhere”.

However, the government says the deep-throat saliva samples will still be used in a few circumstances, including people whose health and age mean they cannot undergo the professional sample collection.

People taking a voluntary test can still use saliva sampling, with free collection packs available at places including MTR stations, outpatient clinics and post offices. However, officials say the supply of packs will be “adjusted at [the] appropriate juncture”.