Extensive contact tracing ‘needed within hours’

Hong Kong authorities should conduct contact tracing of Covid patients as thoroughly as possible instead of simply asking infected people to complete questionnaires themselves, mainland expert Wang Qin said.

Wang, who supports Hong Kong’s battle against Covid, said authorities should not rely solely on self-reports from patients, but should also proactively investigate where people have been by looking at records of logging into premises or using credit cards, to identify people who have been to high-risk sites.

“It is an important step for Hong Kong to encourage people who test positive in rapid tests to report their infections,” she said.

“But contact tracing is professional work and cannot be replaced by simple questionnaires. Therefore, it is important that authorities proactively carry out contact tracing work,” she said.

If clusters are found in the SAR, health officials should interview patients who may have started chains of transmission and help them remember where they are, Wang said. If people are required to self-declare their whereabouts, they could report inaccurate information, she added.

Wang also said the Hong Kong government should conduct extensive research on the data, including observing crowds in public places and recordings of Octopus. With data from epidemiological surveys, authorities will be able to identify high-risk buildings and control the pandemic.

She said contact tracing teams on the mainland can usually complete a preliminary report within two to four hours of a patient testing positive and submit a report on their whereabouts and major close contacts the same day.

The Center for Health Protection’s senior medical and health director, Albert Au Ka-wing, said yesterday that the SAR had focused on isolating Covid patients and their close contacts.

Health authorities will issue notices of mandatory testing based on information collected from patient self-report forms, he said.

Meanwhile, Hong Kong Patients’ Voices President Alex Lam Chi-yau has urged Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor to say whether she will form an independent commission of inquiry to investigate the impact of the pandemic on Hong Kong, in an effort to let the families of the deceased know what happened.