Beijing sends team from mainland to ramp up Hong Kong testing capacity

Beijing, Aug 3 (efe-epa).- The Chinese government is to send a team of 60 national health professionals to Hong Kong to boost the autonomous region’s Covid-19 testing capacity as it grapples with the third wave of infections, state media reported Monday.

State newspaper Global Times said the first seven members of the team dispatched from the mainland arrived in Hong Kong Sunday and will soon be joined by the remaining nucleic acid test assistance team made up of experts from some 20 state hospitals in the neighbouring south-eastern province of Guangzhou.

They will be led by the head of the Hubei Province response team from the region’s capital in Wuhan, ground zero for the global pandemic.

So far 3,512 coronavirus cases have been registered in Hong Kong since the start of the pandemic, of which around 65 per cent have occurred since late June, according to data from the city’s Center for Health Protection. The number of deaths so far has reached 34.

According to Global Times, the Hong Kong government asked Beijing to dispatch reinforcements despite a group of Hong Kong district councillors warning the arrival of the mainland practitioners could pose some risks.

Opposition group Neo Democrat leader Roy Tam said there were concerns among citizens over privacy protection of DNA samples collected amid growing fears Beijing is ramping up its influence in the region after imposing a new national security law.

According to local public broadcasting service Radio Television Hong Kong (RTHK), concerns have been raised over the companies in charge of widespread testing, namely the BGI Group which has been blacklisted by several countries for allegedly taking DNA samples from ethnic Uighurs in Xinjiang (northwest) to keep them under surveillance, something the company has denied.

The Hong Kong central government has reassured its citizens that no samples will be sent to mainland China and condemned the “rumours” as conspiracy theories.

Authorities will investigate whether the dissemination of the information about the testing team travelling from Guangzhou constitutes a crime.

The head of the first team to arrive in the city, Guo Penghao, said that the first task would be to learn more about the laboratories where tests are analyzed and the procedures that are followed in the city to prepare for a massive testing drive.

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