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The initiative aims to test 100,000 individuals and healthcare workers in Hong Kong
Genetic testing and health tech company Prenetics, also known as CircleDNA, announced in an April 15 press release the launch of *’*Project Screen by Circle,’ a non-profit initiative that will provide COVID-19 home testing solutions in Hong Kong. The initiative aims to test 100,000 individuals in Hong Kong, and is the latest instance of companies joining the fight against the coronavirus pandemic.
The RT-PCR testing provided by Project Screen, globally considered to be the gold standard in COVID-19 testing, is approved by the World Health Organization (WHO) and is 99.9% accurate both in identifying positive cases and correctly identifying those who test negative.
Prenetics launched the initiative in collaboration with insurance and financial services provider Prudential Hong Kong, Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK), Xcelom, Mason Supreme Healthcare, architechture firm hpa SOCIAL, Hong Kong-based investment firm Beyond Ventures, and courier delivery service Pickupp.
Individuals can get hold of the test by visiting screen.circledna.com and completing a short questionnaire. The testing solution costs a little over US$125 (HK$985) for individuals, with a $38 (HK$300) subsidy for up to 30,000 healthcare workers and their families courtesy of Prudential Hong Kong.
According to the company statement, there will be an initial ramp-up period where the facility will be able to process 1,000 tests daily, which is then expected to expand up to 3,000 samples daily. Hong Kong’s current government capacity is about 5,000 tests per day.
The testing solution provided by Project Screen will include sample collection by trained professionals, same-day sample pick-up and delivery by Pickupp, and private, secure digital results via email within 24 hours of sample receipt in the laboratory. Positive results are screened a second time for confirmation and patients are offered a phone consultation by an independent healthcare professional.
Amid the global coronavirus pandemic, several countries have recommended large-scale liberal testing. Studies have shown that asymptomatic patients can be a source of widespread contagion, with almost 78% of patients having no symptoms (British Medical Journal).
Stressing the need for large-scale testing for COVID-19, Dr. Wong Yuk Calvin, a leading member of the team of healthcare experts in charge of COVID-19 testing said, “Countries promoting herd immunity with non aggressive testing are associated with steep infection curves and high case fatality rates of more than 10% while countries promoting aggressive testing, early diagnosis, isolation and treatment have a flatter infection curve and low case fatality rates of less than 1 % like China, Hong Kong, and Singapore.”
Additionally, under Project Screen, the CUHK Biomedicine Sciences team led by Professor Stephen Tsui in collaboration with Prenetics, will develop new protocols for rapid and accurate whole genome sequencing of SARS-CoV-2 which can lead to a better understanding of the virus.
“As a researcher and life-long academic, it’s my privilege to be involved in Project Screen. Having mapped the SARS genome 17 years ago, I’m confident that we can do the same for COVID-19. This virus is one of the biggest threats Hong Kong has faced and understanding the spread is crucial in fighting the disease. By harnessing whole genome sequencing, it will help us break down the complex picture of the COVID-19 spread, and ultimately save lives,” said Tsui.
Prenetics Co-Founder and CEO of Danny Yeung said, “Hong Kong is our home and together with the consortium of Project Screen, we felt it was our responsibility to do everything we possibly can for the community. No one company can do it all and it’s just amazing we have the support of so many industry leaders who have all worked around the clock to launch Project Screen as a non-profit initiative.”
Photo by Ousa Chea on Unsplash.