Passengers who arrive at Hong Kong’s airport will be asked to take an additional Loop-mediated isothermal amplification (LAMP) test for Covid-19 detection, starting Wednesday, according to the Food and Health Bureau.

LAMP test results are returned in less time than the test method currently used. However, travellers will still have to take the mandatory RT-PCR test and wait for their test results.

File Photo: GovHK.

The Food and Health Bureau said the new scheme would last for two weeks and will help the government test out the reliability and sensitivity of LAMP tests, Apple Daily reported. The LAMP test is voluntary. Those who opt to take it will still have to wait for a reverse-transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) test result, which is mandatory, before they can enter the territory.

Citing an anonymous source, the newspaper also reported that the government is experimenting with LAMP tests in the hopes that it could be scaled up, so future outbound travellers could have a virus test at the airport before boarding a flight. This could save them the cost of testing at a private lab, and reduce obstacles to travelling.

30 minutes for test results

Dr. David Hui, Chinese University infectious disease expert and government expert adviser on the pandemic, told HKFP that the LAMP test would return results in about 30 minutes, compared with three to six hours required for results from the RT-PCR test currently in use.

“As for its accuracy, whether there might be any ones it can’t catch, we have to try it in order to know,” Hui said. The LAMP test would use the same swabbing methods: throat and nose swabs.

Emerging infectious disease expert David Hui. File Photo: CUHK.

Hui also said the government is likely testing the new method to prepare for an increased flow of travellers when there would be “travel bubbles” established with other cities. “If borders are to reopen and tens of thousands would pass through the airport, this could be helpful to reduce travellers’ wait time,” he said.

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Selina Cheng

Selina Cheng is a Hong Kong journalist who previously worked with HK01, Quartz and AFP Beijing. She also covered the Umbrella Movement for AP and reported for a newspaper in France. Selina has studied investigative reporting at the Columbia Journalism School.