Mainland-listed Hybribio involved in HK’s Covid-19 mass testing scheme eyes expansion

18-Sep-2020 Intellasia | South China Morning Post | 6:02 AM Print This Post

Hybribio, one of the three mainland Chinese biotechnology groups involved in the Hong Kong government’s Covid-19 mass testing scheme, plans to expand its operations in the city, a top executive said.

The company had been looking to grow its business in the financial hub even before the coronavirus pandemic, said director and vice general manager Kun Tit Sang, who oversaw the company’s operations during the two-week testing programme that ended on Monday.

“We’ve always been here and we were doing this anyway,” he said, adding that Hybribio will be hiring more staff, moving to a bigger office and expanding the scope of services, but stopped short of elaborating on the group’s plans.

Get the latest insights and analysis from our Global Impact newsletter on the big stories originating in China.

A total of 1.78 million people were tested under the Universal Community Testing Programme. At least 42 Covid-19 carriers were identified among the quarter of Hong Kong’s population who voluntarily took part in the scheme. The numbers were far below the government’s estimates of five million, leaving the companies involved in the testing underwhelmed.

Hybribio’s Hong Kong Molecular Pathology Diagnostic Centre and two other subsidiaries of mainland Chinese companies BGI and Kingmed Diagnostics helped conduct the mass testing, which cost local taxpayers to the tune of HK$530 million (US$68.4 mllion).

“The work in Hong Kong was relatively easy,” said Kun. “Most of the diagnostic work was pretty much handled by our Hong Kong staff, because the Hong Kong lab has been around for eight years with very experienced staff.”

Hybribio opened Hong Kong Molecular Pathology its first diagnostic laboratory in 2012, before opening labs in mainland China. It has developed two nucleic acid detection kits for Covid-19 testing, and 18 of its 20 medical laboratories across mainland cities are qualified to conduct such testing, according to its website.

Controversy has dogged the coronavirus testing scheme since it was announced. Many residents have raised privacy concerns, with pro-democracy politicians saying that Hongkongers’ DNA would be leaked via the mainland laboratories and it would be used to track participants.

However, the companies involved in the testing have said that the samples will not be sent to the mainland.

“There’s definitely no leakage of any DNA information,” Kun said. “It’s OK to say that we are a mainland company or to say that we are a Hong Kong company. So we now just say we are a Greater Bay Area company.”

Kun refused to reveal further details about his company’s participation in the scheme, citing a confidentiality agreement signed with the Hong Kong government.

The daily testing numbers in Hong Kong were far below that of the mainland cities where mass testing is usually compulsory for residents. An average of 127,000 samples were taken on a daily basis in Hong Kong over a period of two weeks, according to government data.

The firm had sent about a dozen mainland laboratory staff to Hong Kong at the start of the universal testing programme, Kun said, but added that some were sent back as the volumes were not very high. The environment was “a lot less stressful than what we had faced in the beginning of the epidemic” in Wuhan, Guangzhou or Liaoning, he added.

In Wuhan, where the coronavirus first emerged, 9.9 million residents were tested from May 14 to June 1, meaning around 521,000 people were tested each day, over four times the volume in Hong Kong. During Beijing’s second wave in mid June, 10.06 million people were tested within three weeks or 3.6 times the daily average in Hong Kong.


Category: Hong Kong

Print This Post