RAT for inbound travelers at the  airport’s “test-and-hold” starts on May 9

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All arriving travelers at Hong Kong International Airport from overseas places or Taiwan, starting tomorrow (May 9) will be required not only to undergo a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) nucleic acid test by professional swab sampling but as well as to undergo a RAT with professional specimen collection at the same time upon arrival under the “test-and-hold” arrangement at the Temporary Specimen Collection Centre (TSCC) at the airport.

The Government announced on Thursday that with effect from May 9, an additional rapid antigen test (RAT) to strengthen the testing arrangements for inbound persons for earlier detection and isolation of infected persons and to enhance the process of closed-loop management from the airport to designated quarantine hotels (DQHs) so as to shorten the waiting time for inbound persons at the airport.

Once the results of the RAT of the inbound person are negative, he or she can then proceed with immigration procedures, and be transferred by designated transport to DQHs. At DQHs where he or she will wait for the nucleic acid test result and undergo compulsory quarantine under closed-loop management and if the result of the nucleic acid test is also negative, the relevant quarantined person can continue his or her compulsory quarantine in DQHs. He or she will be subject to daily RATs as well as nucleic acid tests on the fifth and 12th days of arrival in Hong Kong.

If any result of a RAT or nucleic acid test during a “test-and-hold” arrangement or quarantine is positive and the relevant inbound person is classified as a confirmed case, he or she will be transferred to a community isolation facility hotel (CIF hotel) for isolation should he or she have no obvious symptoms and does not need any medical support. For those requiring treatment, they will be transferred to a public hospital facility for treatment and monitoring. The presence of viral genome fragments inside the body of some recovered persons who had been infected with COVID-19 may still be detectable through nucleic acid tests. In this regard, for inbound persons who have tested positive by nucleic acid tests with a low viral load during the “test-and-hold” arrangement at HKIA or compulsory quarantine in DQHs and are recovered persons infected within 90 days, the Department of Health will, having regard to data of the nucleic acid test results and recovery records, consider whether the persons concerned should not be classified as confirmed cases and allow them to continue to undergo compulsory quarantine in the DQHs instead of transferring them to CIF hotels for compulsory isolation.

A Government spokesman said, “The relevant arrangements ensure the continued stringent control and management of importation risks while further shortening the stay of relevant inbound passengers at the airport.”

The abovementioned arrangements will not be applicable to persons arriving via HKIA from the Mainland or Macao who are subject to home quarantine, those who come to Hong Kong under the Return2hk Scheme or the Come2hk Scheme and are thus exempted from compulsory quarantine, and other inbound persons who are not required to undergo compulsory quarantine in DQHs. These relevant inbound persons must undergo a nucleic acid test at the TSCC at the airport. They can only proceed with their immigration procedures upon confirmation of negative nucleic acid test results.