Authorities should reduce compulsory Covid screening that uses the time-consuming PCR tests to facilitate the SAR's return to normalcy, respiratory specialist Leung Chi-chiu said.
Polymerase chain reaction tests, he said yesterday, have become a less important means of detection as its results are not immediately available.
He also questioned authorities' decision to downgrade free PCR tests from nasal and throat swabs to just collecting throat samples in a move that takes effect from today.
He cited overseas studies that previous test method comes with a sensitivity of 97 percent, while the latter is one third less at 68 percent.
"We've been allocating a lot of resources to PCR tests and bringing inconvenience by requiring people to take mandatory tests, yet we're adopting a less sensitive test, which appears to be contradictory," he said.
New arrivals at the airport will also be taking the throat swab test from today, which Leung said may increase the risk of imported cases.
Present border curbs, he said, can no longer stop new variants from coming in, and authorities should go along that line to reduce inconvenience to travelers.
Given the SAR has already "stepped on the path to normality," he also suggested authorities cut PCR tests for non-high-risk groups.
"When the health system is stretched, we can just do PCR tests in areas of high risks," he said, adding PCR can be replaced by rapid tests
But Ricky Chiu Yin-to, founder of biochemical company and local test kit manufacturer Phase Scientific International, said just doing throat swabs can speed up the process.
He said the new method is still effective in detecting infections with a CT value below 35, indicating a considerable viral load.
"At the beginning of an Omicron infection, the coronavirus
mostly concentrates in the throat and they appear in the nasal cavity later," he said, adding it is difficult to conclude which testing method is the best.
Hong Kong yesterday saw 5,198 cases - 4,634 local and 564 imported infections - as well as five deaths.
Of these, 1,184 reports were from 627 schools, involving 1,147 students and 37 staff. Two classes were suspended for a week. Seven elderly homes and two disabled homes also reported 14 infections.