Signs of the times at a Mobile Specimen Collection Unit
here in Hong Kong!
A sign that Hong Kong is still far from being "back to normal" (unlike what the authorities seek to claim): Earlier this week, my building was one of over 40 that day issued with a Compulsory Testing Notice (CTN) -- meaning that everyone of its residents was required to go get a Covid nucleic acid (AKA polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test. In the case of my building, it's because three -- yes, just 3 -- people (out of a few thousand) living in it had come down with the Wuhan coronavirus (or Covid) in recent weeks.
Thus it was that I -- along with the thousands of others of the people living in my building (and workers and visitors who had spent more than two hours in it over the course of a week), and tens of thousands of other people living in other buildings issued with a CTN -- had to go to a designated Mobile Specimen Collection Station or Community Testing Centre to be tested for Covid. More than incidentally: the sense I have is that there must be scores of them since there is not just one but two of them within walking distance of where I live!
For those living outside of Hong Kong who wonder what would happen if we don't comply, and go and get tested: we'd be slapped with fines of up to HK$10,000 per person! Just last month, 54 residents of the J Residence in Wan Chai were found to not have "complied with the compulsory testing notices" and collectively been issued HK$460,000 worth of fines!
I'm not sure whether that building's management and security guards were negligent in alerting the residents to the Compulsory Testing Order having been issued for it. I will say though that the equivalent in my building could never be accused of that as copies of the CTO were put up in the lobby and by the escalator entrances on the ground floor, and put into every single mail box in the building! Also, on the day that the CTO was issued, the security guard at the desk made a point to alert every person who passed by his station about it!
For the record: this is the second time that I've had to have a PCR test -- and both times have been the result of a Compulsory Testing Order being issued for my residence. The first time, the test had involved a guy sticking the testing stick up my nose and it had been pretty painful. But with the government having decided last week that throat swabs are adequate, I was spared that this time around!
And while I officially was supposed to have had a throat swab, I ended up just getting a mouth swab! As University of Hong Kong microbiologist Dr Siddharth Sridhar's pointed out: "Actually, collecting a proper throat swab is very difficult. You've gotta use a tongue depressor, a torch and get right to the back of throat and tonsils with your swab." But rather than do that, my tester this time around actually just swabbed my tongue and sides of my mouth!
I wonder if this had a part in my test turning out to be negative. What I do know is that this mouth swab was a lot less painful than the nose swab I had some months back! In any case, cue relief on my part once more upon getting a negative test result. For even if I managed to not get sent to Penny's Bay and, instead, could stay in my own flat, it's still not exactly ideal to be unable to get out of the space for a week! And okay, yeah, I was expecting a negative result as I don't have any Covid symptoms. But you never know -- since, remember, some people who have Covid are asymptomatic!