The Claim and Our Verdict
- The claim: A Facebook post published Sept. 7, 2021, claims people who arrive at Hong Kong via the Return2HK scheme must obtain specimen collection kits at post offices and collect specimens themselves for nucleic testing.
- Starting Sept. 8, 2021, arrivals at Hong Kong under the Return2HK scheme must undergo testing for COVID-19 with professional swab sampling at a community testing center or a recognized local medical testing institution so as to comply with the compulsory testing requirement.
- With a doctor’s certificate, Hong Kong residents who cannot undergo professional swab testing due to age or health concerns may use deep throat saliva specimen collection kits obtained at boundary control points. They can collect the specimens themselves at their home and then submit them with the assistance of friends or family members or by paying for door-to-door specimen collection service.
- Our ruling: Therefore, we rate the claim as FALSE.
A Facebook post published Sept. 7, 2021, claims that the Hong Kong government requires people who have just arrived at Hong Kong via the Return2HK scheme to obtain deep throat saliva (DTS) specimen collection kits at post offices, collect samples for nucleic tests by themselves, and submit specimens on six different days after arrival. The post adds that it is an abusive policy to require the elderly to go back and forth over 10 times after returning to Hong Kong given that such a task would be difficult even for young, healthy individuals.
As of the issuance of this report, the post had been shared 247 times and received 229 comments and more than 2600 reactions.
The Return2HK scheme was designed to allow Hong Kong residents who stayed on the Mainland or in Macau to be exempt from compulsory quarantine requirements when returning to Hong Kong. Any Hong Kong residents aged 18 or above with valid Hong Kong ID cards are exempt from compulsory quarantine if they have only stayed in Hong Kong, the Mainland and/or Macao, and have not stayed in any area being designated as at-risk places that are temporarily inapplicable under the Return2HK scheme in the past 14 days prior to and upon the day of arrival in Hong Kong. The day of arrival at Hong Kong and the 14 days before that day do not include the period during which a person undergoes compulsory quarantine in the Mainland or Macao under the respective prevailing requirement of that place.
On September 7, the Hong Kong government announced the resumption of the Return2HK scheme. A quota arrangement for specific boundary control points will remain in place. There are 3,000 daily quotas for residents returning via the Shenzhen Bay control point, 2,000 for the Hong Kong–Zhuhai–Macao Bridge Hong Kong Port, and 1,000 for Hong Kong International Airport.
The HKBU FactCheck Service searched the official Return2HK Scheme website and found health monitoring arrangements as follows:
“Any Hong Kong resident returning to Hong Kong via land boundary control points under the Return2hk Scheme must undergo testing on the 3rd, 5th, 9th, 12th, 16th and 19th day following the person’s arrival at Hong Kong if he/she is still in Hong Kong, while those returning via Hong Kong International Airport, apart from the testing arrangement at the airport, must undergo testing on the 3rd, 5th, 9th, 12th, 16th and 19th day following their arrival in Hong Kong if he/she is still in Hong Kong. Starting from 8 September 2021, arrivals in Hong Kong under the Scheme must undergo testing with professional swab sampling at a community testing centre (CTC) or a recognised local medical testing institution so as to comply with the compulsory testing requirement. The test to be taken on the 19th day must be conducted in a CTC.”
As of September 14, there were 19 community testing centers (CTC), 13 mobile specimen collection stations, and 29 recognized local medical testing institutions, according to the Hong Kong government’s COVID-19 thematic website.
However, there are alternatives to testing with professional swab sampling at community testing centers or recognized local medical testing institutions. The official website says the following:
“For individual persons who are incapable of receiving professional swab sampling due to health reasons, if a medical certificate is issued by a registered medical practitioner to prove that he or she is unfit to undergo such testing, he or she may obtain a DTS specimen collection kit and return the specimen to one of the designated collection points.”
As for the returning of DTS specimen packs, the website says, “You may return the specimen by yourself (except persons who are under quarantine) or family members/relatives/friends to one of the designated collection clinics of the Hospital Authority, clinics of DH, or government premises on the same day of specimen collection. You may also choose to use door-to-door specimen collection service at a charge.” There are currently three service providers with door-to-door specimen collection services: GOGOVAN (currently known as GOGOX), Pickupp, and Toby.
HKBU FactCheck Service also called the government hotline at 12:10 p.m. on Sept. 13, 2021. The staff confirmed the information listed on the official website and highlighted that as of Sept. 8, 2021, self-testing results obtained through DTS collection kits will no longer be accepted. Only those residents who cannot go out due to health status or advanced age and with a valid medical certificate can use DTS collection kits obtained at boundary control points to self-collect specimens at home and return them to collection points.
The claim, therefore, misinterprets the policy. People who arrive at Hong Kong via the Return2HK scheme can choose from different testing methods based on their individual situation.
Therefore, we rate the claim as FALSE.
- Facebook post, Sept. 7, 2021
- COVID-19 thematic website, Return2HK Scheme.
- COVID-19 thematic website, Early Testing and Detection.
- COVID-19 thematic website, Homepage.
- COVID-19 thematic website, Community Testing Centers.
- COVID-19 thematic website, Local COVID-19 RT-PCR testing institutions recognised by the Hong Kong SAR Government.
- News.gov.hk, “Return2hk Scheme to resume,” Sept. 7, 2021