Compulsory Testing for Certain Persons
Prevention and Control of Disease (Compulsory Testing for Certain Persons) Regulation
|Comes into operation on 15 November 2020|
Subject to the epidemic development and the need for infection control, the Government will delineate restricted areas and make a "restriction-testing declaration". Persons within the areas are required to stay in their premises and undergo compulsory testing in accordance with the arrangement by the Government, and can only leave after the relevant test results are mostly ascertained. All premises within the restricted areas, whether or not confirmed cases were found therein, would be included in the compulsory testing notice. Any person who had been present in the restricted area for more than two hours in the past 14 days (including but not limited to visitors, residents and workers) have to also undergo compulsory testing.
Compulsory testing notice
Household members of close contacts of confirmed cases
Currently, the Centre for Health Protection (CHP) requires asymptomatic close contacts of confirmed cases to undergo compulsory quarantine in quarantine centres. To strengthen tracing ability, the Government requires the household members of close contacts to undergo compulsory testing.
Any person who had lived with a person who is placed under quarantine pursuant to section 22 of the Prevention and Control of Disease Regulation (Cap. 599A) (person under quarantine) in the same residential unit on the date of commencement of quarantine or during the 14 days before that day, and who becomes aware of the quarantine of the person under quarantine when the relevant quarantine has not yet been completed, have to undergo testing within two days of he/she becoming aware of the person under quarantine has been placed under quarantine and report to the Government the result of the test by phone (at 6275 6901), fax (at 2530 5872) or email (firstname.lastname@example.org) within three days of undergoing the test.
Buildings resided by COVID-19 cases with mutant strain
Subsequent to the announcement by the CHP on the updated quarantine arrangements of local COVID-19 cases with a mutant strain, persons who resided or worked within the same building as the residence of relevant cases will be subject to compulsory testing on the third, seventh, 12th and 19th days counting from the announcement of the relevant confirmed case by the Department of Health (DH). Relevant persons have to undergo testing on specified dates and self-monitoring until the 21st day (see the details of the buildings and dates of testing at the link below). For prudence's sake, the above compulsory testing requirement applies to those who have completed a COVID-19 vaccination course as well.
For other most updated information, please also refer to daily press releases.
In general, persons who have completed a COVID-19 vaccination course or undergone testing during a specified period (if applicable) would be taken to have complied with the requirements specified in the Compulsory Testing Notices. However, if the relevant case involves mutant strain, for prudence's sake, persons subject to compulsory testing and have completed a COVID-19 vaccination course will also have to undergo compulsory testing. For details, please refer to the relevant notices.
Testing routes for persons subject to compulsory testing:
(Note: Persons subject to compulsory testing must keep the SMS notification containing the result of the test and the relevant medical certificate (if applicable) for checking by a law enforcement officer when the officer requires the persons to provide information about their undergoing the specified test. The routes below are for reference only. Persons subject to compulsory testing should carefully read the relevant announcements.)
- To visit any of the mobile specimen collection stations (see the list and target groups (if applicable) at www.communitytest.gov.hk/en/station/) for testing;
- To attend any of the community testing centres (see the list at www.communitytest.gov.hk/en);
- To self-arrange testing provided by private laboratories which are recognised by the DH and can issue SMS notifications in respect of test results (see the list atwww.coronavirus.gov.hk/pdf/List_of_recognised_laboratories_RTPCR.pdf), and the relevant sample must be taken through combined nasal and throat swabs; or
- To use a specimen bottle distributed to the relevant specified premises by the CHP (if applicable), and return the specimen bottle with the stool sample collected as per relevant guidelines.
If a person subject to compulsory testing obtains a medical certificate issued by a registered medical practitioner, proving that he/she is unfit to undergo testing using a sample taken through combined nasal and throat swabs because of health reasons, then he/she may choose to undergo testing via the following routes by providing a deep throat saliva sample:
- To obtain a deep throat saliva specimen collection pack from any of the 121 post offices, vending machines set up at 20 MTR stations or 47 designated general out-patient clinics (GOPCs) of the Hospital Authority and return the specimen to one of the designated specimen collection points (see the distribution points and times, and the specimen collection points and times, at www.coronavirus.gov.hk/eng/early-testing.html);
- To undergo testing at any of the GOPCs of the Hospital Authority as instructed by a medical professional of the Hospital Authority; or
- To self-arrange testing provided by private laboratories which are recognised by the DH and can issue SMS notifications in respect of test results.
Testing received at the Accident and Emergency Departments of the Hospital Authority or during hospital stays, or testing provided by private laboratories which cannot issue SMS notifications in respect of test results, does not comply with the requirements of the aforementioned compulsory testing notice.
If persons who are subject to compulsory testing have symptoms, they should seek medical attention immediately and undergo testing as instructed by a medical professional. They should not attend the mobile specimen collection stations or Community Testing Centres. Furthermore, persons who are subject to testing should, as far as reasonably practicable, take appropriate personal disease prevention measures including wearing a mask and maintaining hand hygiene; and unless for the purpose of undergoing the specified test, stay at their place of residence or private premises and avoid going to their workplace until the test result is ascertained as far as possible.
Community testing centres (CTCs) provide testing services for the public, including free service for persons subject to compulsory testing. Booking and walk-in services are available. Members of the public only need to provide simple personal information on the 24-hour booking system (www.communitytest.gov.hk/en). The system shows the booking status of the centres for the coming two weeks to facilitate the public's planning and selection of a suitable testing centre and a time slot for testing.
Any enquiries on compulsory testing arrangements may be addressed to the hotline at 6275 6901 which operates daily from 9am to 6pm.
High risk groups or high exposure groups
The Government urges all individuals who are in doubt about their own health conditions, or individuals with infection risks (such as individuals who visited places with epidemic outbreaks or contacted confirmed cases) to undergo testing promptly for early identification of infected persons. The FHB will publish compulsory testing notices regarding particular groups when necessary taking into account the epidemic development and the testing participation rate.
Staff members of RCHEs, RCHDs and nursing homes
- Persons who are employed by and will be on duty at RCHEs, RCHDs, nursing homes and day service units attached to the premises of residential care homes during the relevant period, or who will provide services to residents or users through hire-of-service contracts with residential care homes and the aforementioned units during that period (including full-time, part-time and relief staff) are required to undergo polymerase chain reaction-based nucleic acid tests. Although staff members who have completed a COVID-19 vaccination course are exempted from the regular compulsory testing, they can still receive free testing if they voluntarily choose to undergo the test. For details, please refer to the relevant press releases (Please click the first link for the latest press release).
Hong Kong International Airport staff
- As a few recent cases involving mutant strains have affected staff of the airport, the Government has requested the Airport Authority to strengthen infection control measures for staff of airport, including requiring relevant staff to receive vaccination and regular testing. For prudence's sake, the above compulsory testing requirement applies to those who have completed a COVID-19 vaccination course as well. Fully vaccinated airport staff are required to undergo testing every 14 days and those who are unfit to receive vaccination at the moment because of health reasons must make a declaration using a specified form and produce a medical certificate to the employer and undergo more frequent testing every 3 days using combined nasal and throat swabs.
The Airport Authority has also announced further new requirements on August 20 to require Targeted Groups of airport workers to be vaccinated (complete at least one dose of vaccination with effect from 1 September, and required to undergo a test every seven days), with no option of producing negative results in place of vaccination or medical exemption from vaccination. For details, please refer to press release.
Direction issued by a registered medical practitioner
The Government published in the Gazette the specifications under Cap. 599J, which continue to empower a registered medical practitioner to require, by a compulsory testing direction, any person whom the medical practitioner attends to in the course of professional practice and clinically suspects to have contracted COVID-19 to undergo a COVID-19 nucleic acid test. Persons who receive a compulsory testing direction should undergo a test within two days after the issue date of the written direction (the testing deadline).
Persons who are subject to such testing may choose to undergo a test as below:
- To use the specimen bottle provided by the registered medical practitioner who issued the compulsory testing direction to collect a deep throat saliva specimen and submit the specimen bottle to designated specimen collection points by the testing deadline (see the specimen collection points and time at www.coronavirus.gov.hk/eng/early-testing.html). Having reported the case to the DH, the registered medical practitioner who issued the direction will be notified of the test result; or
- To self-arrange testing provided by private laboratories recognised by the DH (see the list at https://www.coronavirus.gov.hk/pdf/List_of_recognised_laboratories_RTPCR.pdf) by the testing deadline and submit the test result to the medical practitioner who issued the compulsory testing direction or his clinic staff by electronic mail, fax, or by hardcopy within four days after the testing deadline.
Persons arriving Hong Kong
According to the epidemic development and needs, the Government will arrange rounds of virus testing for inbound travellers. The Government has also adjusted the boarding, quarantine and testing arrangements for persons arriving at Hong Kong (including Hong Kong residents returning to Hong Kong) who have completed their COVID-19 vaccination course under the "vaccine bubble" concept. For details, please refer to relevant instructions and this webpage.
Frequently Asked Questions
- Why do we need to put in place this regulation?
Strengthening testing for COVID-19 is an integral part of the epidemic control strategy, which helps to prevent the transmission of the virus by early identification, early isolation and early treatment.
- What is the legal basis for the Regulation (Cap. 599J)?
To further strengthen testing, the Government has made the Prevention and Control of Disease (Compulsory Testing for Certain Persons) Regulation (Cap. 599J). The Regulation provides a legal framework for the Government to specify by compulsory testing notice published in the Gazette, a category or description of persons who are required to undergo a test for COVID-19, taking into account the epidemic development. Examples include persons who live or work in specified premises with outbreak of cases, persons of a particular occupation, persons who arrive at Hong Kong, etc. The Secretary for Food and Health (SFH) will publish the relevant notices when necessary taking into account the epidemic development. In addition, the Regulation allows SFH to specify by notice published in the Gazette a period of not more than 14 days, during which a specified medical practitioner can require a person clinically suspected to have contracted COVID-19 to undergo testing by compulsory testing direction issued to that person.
Moreover, Cap. 599J provides the legal framework for the Government to, according to the needs of infection control, restrict movement of persons subject to compulsory testing, or seal off premises with epidemic outbreaks until all persons on the premises have undergone testing and the test results are mostly ascertained. (See also FAQ 4 below.)
- What are the legal consequences for persons who fail to comply with a compulsory testing notice or compulsory testing direction?
The Government has increased the penalties for breaching requirements under the relevant Regulation in order to create the necessary deterrence effect. The relevant legislative amendments took effect from 11 December 2020. Any person who fails to comply with the compulsory testing notice or compulsory testing direction commits an offence and the maximum penalty upon conviction is a fine at level 3 ($10,000). The fixed penalty for discharging liability for the offence is $5,000. The person may also be issued with a compulsory testing order requiring him/her to undergo testing within a specified timeframe. Failure to comply with the order is an offence and the offender would be liable to a fine at level 4 ($25,000) and to imprisonment for six months.
- What is a "restriction-testing declaration"?
Cap. 599J provides the legal framework for the Secretary for Food and Health to make a "restriction-testing declaration" (declaration) when a considerable number of persons who have recently contracted COVID-19 have recently been present on the premises, or a person who has recently contracted the disease and who has recently been present on the premises is likely to have been in close proximity to a considerable number of persons on the premises, and accordingly persons who are present on the premises are being exposed to a significant risk of contracting the disease, and it is necessary to conduct testing for persons on the premises promptly and extensively in order to prevent, protect against, delay and control the transmission of the disease. After the declaration is made, relevant persons are required to stay in the premises until all such persons have undergone testing and the test results are ascertained. If necessary, such as when it is suspected that environmental contamination onsite which increases the infection risks of persons therein, the Government may transfer persons on the premises to a designated place to wait for the test result having regard to the situation, or send them to quarantine centres for compulsory quarantine under the existing mechanism.
- What are the legal consequences for breaching a restriction-testing declaration ?
Any person who breaches a restriction-testing declaration or a direction to be transferred to a designated place commits an offence and may be liable to a maximum fine at level 4 ($25,000) and imprisonment for six months.
- Is there any special arrangement for inclement weather during the period for undergoing compulsory testing?
Compulsory testing in respect of specified premises
If Tropical Cyclone Warning Signal No. 3 or above is hoisted, or the Red or Black Rainstorm Warning Signal or the post-super typhoon "extreme conditions" announcement by the Government is in force at any time during the period for undergoing the compulsory testing, the period for undergoing the compulsory testing will be extended for one day.
Compulsory testing in respect of buildings resided by COVID-19 cases with the N501Y/L452R mutant strain
If the tropical cyclone signal No. 3 or above is hoisted, or a red/black rainstorm warning signal or “extreme conditions after super typhoons” announced by the Government is/are in force at any time during the period for undergoing the compulsory testing, the period for undergoing the Specified Test will be extended to the next day after the tropical cyclone signal No. 3 is lowered, or a red rainstorm warning signal or the “extreme conditions after super typhoons” announced by the Government has/have ceased to be in force.
- What specimen samples would be taken as recognised compulsory testing method by the Government?
The Government announced that further steps will be taken to replace deep throat saliva specimen by combined nasal and throat swab samples collected by professionals (professional swab sampling) as recognised compulsory testing method except for certain circumstances, with a view to enhancing the effectiveness of COVID-19 testing arrangements. For details, please refer to this press release and relevant compulsory testing notices.
- Where can the public obtain more information?
Any enquiries on compulsory testing arrangements may be addressed to the hotline at 6275 6901 which operates daily from 9am to 6pm.
Useful links and resources
- What You Must Know for COVID-19: Early Testing and Detection
- Prevention and Control of Disease (Compulsory Testing for Certain Persons) Regulation (Cap. 599J)