Poor families struggle for Covid tests, seek support

A group of low-income families on Sunday spoke of their plight after members of their households came down with Covid-19, with many complaining about a lack of support from the government and long delays in getting Covid tests done.

Speaking at a media briefing arranged by the Society for Community Organisation (SoCO), one woman, surnamed Siu, said her three children contracted the virus after she and her husband were told to isolate in their 200 square-foot flat.

She said she’s worried about her eight-month-old baby’s condition but authorities have not provided any medical support other than giving them some rapid test kits early on.

“They only told us to keep waiting. But I have waited for a long time.” she said, noting that she started to develop a fever on February 3 and tested positive five days later.

Siu said the family was struggling financially, as her husband has not been able to return to work.

Shazib Rana is under home quarantine after his wife and daughter were infected. But he said he was struggling to get help.

“They give so many hotlines these days to call the Hospital Authority or the health department. When we tried to call them, even the seven [designated] clinics, first, they’re all busy. Second, if someone answers, they cannot speak English. If someone can speak English, they cannot understand our English,” he said.

“The government has to provide me with some bottles [to do the test] at home, because I can’t go out. When I tried to call the health department, someone answered ‘you need to wait’ or ask your family members or friends [for help]. So I want to ask, for those who don’t have friends or family in Hong Kong, how can they ask someone to help them?” Rana asked.

Another woman, surnamed Wong, said her husband was told to isolate in their subdivided flat after testing positive on Wednesday. Two days later, she called an ambulance after their two-year-old son developed a high fever.

“We were told to wait at the entrance of the hospital,” she said. “It was very cold. We were shivering. And it was raining, which made it even colder. Many elderly people were also there,” she said.

She said medical staff gave them a bottle to collect her son’s saliva sample, but did not offer medical consultation. She said the staff also refused to provide sample bottles for herself and her daughter, who was with her.

Feeling disappointed, Wong said she returned home with her two children in the morning.

SoCO’s deputy director, Sze Lai-shan, said authorities should ramp up its testing and isolation capacity to mitigate the spread of the virus, especially among grassroots families living in a cramped environment.

She said she believed many infected people have not been able to take a test, meaning daily figures did not reflect the full picture. Sze also urged the government to provide more support to single elderly people, ethnic minorities, and the homeless, saying these are the most vulnerable groups.

Asked about the problems at a media briefing on Sunday, the controller of the Centre for Health Protection, Edwin Tsui, said it was unavoidable that some infected patients may spread the virus to family members because there are insufficient quarantine facilities to isolate all Covid patients.

He said people should follow the Centre for Health Protection’s advice to maintain infection control measures during home quarantine, adding that they should not worry too much even if their families get infected.

Tsui said people do not have to go to hospitals to wait for hours if their symptoms are mild, adding that officials were sending antigen test kits to people under home quarantine.

He added that authorities are working towards increasing the SAR’s testing capacity with the help of the central government. He said high-risk patients, such as those with a high viral load, will be sent to isolation facilities when there are more spaces available.
Last updated: 2022-02-20 HKT 18:37