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COVID-19 patient blasts inaccurate test results

Updated: Jan 30, 2021

In Hong Kong there have always been questions around the technology of testing equipment and of the process. By publishing this blog we bring attention to issues HK people face with COVID-19 testing.

Covid patient blasts inaccurate test results

RTHK 21 January 2021 (format added)

A man who has come down with the coronavirus is urging the authorities to make sure their community testing services are up to standard, saying he and his three family members experienced delays in treatment because of false negative results.

Dilip Rai, a Nepalese who lives with his family on Reclamation Street in Jordan, started feeling unwell on January 9.

Having a sore throat and a slight headache, he gargled salt water, drank ginger lemon turmeric water and rested for three days.

He developed a fever on January 12, and went to see a private doctor the day after.

The doctor found that Rai’s sense of smell and taste was unaffected and told him that he may have had tonsillitis. Rai was prescribed some medication and supplements afterwards.

But his fever did not come down, so Rai went to the community testing centre in Yau Ma Tei to get tested on January 15. The result came back negative the next day.

He said he felt that staff at the testing centre didn’t collect his nasal and throat swabs properly at the time.

“The way the test was conducted was very cursory,” he told RTHK's Jimmy Choi said, “the nasal swab that was supposed to go way back into the nose, they just touched the surface of my nostrils.”

Rai also said instead of taking a swab from the back of his throat, the staff only rubbed the swab around his mouth.

“Is this it?” Rai said he had asked the staff at the time, but was told the test was already completed.

Rai went to a mobile testing site on Canton Road on January 18, as his fever became more serious. He said the way the staff carried out the test was similar to his experience at the community testing centre. Deciding that he shouldn’t be waiting any longer, he called an ambulance that same Monday afternoon and was sent to Kwong Wah Hospital.

He was tested again at the hospital on Monday night, and was confirmed to have the coronavirus the next morning. In the afternoon, Rai received a text message notifying him that his test at the mobile testing site came back negative.

In a phone interview with RTHK while on 24-hour oxygen supply in hospital, Rai recounted what he called a “very unsatisfying experience”. He said he has now had pneumonia, with both lungs affected.

“If I take out the oxygen, it’s quite difficult to breathe. When I go to the toilet, and when I come back or if I talk for too long, I start losing my breath. But other than that, I’m in a reasonably stable condition,” Rai said.

He said he has been given some medication to alleviate his headache, as well as some antibiotics, but doctors have yet to decide whether he will need to undergo an experimental treatment for Covid-19.

Rai lives with his wife, son, cousin and her husband, in a two bedroom apartment on Reclamation Street. All five of them have contracted the coronavirus, and Rai said community testing failed to detect the virus in all but one of them.

Rai’s son and wife took a Covid test on Monday, which came back negative the next day. They were found to have been infected after another test while under quarantine in Penny’s Bay from Monday night.

“If it had only happened to me, maybe I’m the exception. But it happened to my son, it happened to my wife, it happened to my brother-in-law who also tested negative first then positive later. In my family of five people, it happened five times. That is nowhere near an acceptable and reasonable number.”

“I think it’s just the tip of the iceberg. The government, I think, has to improve its inspection of what the contractors are doing down in the field.”

Rai said the government should set up a mechanism to monitor frontline staff collecting samples at the testing sites, making sure they are doing their jobs properly.

“Based on my personal experience, this is a complete waste of taxpayers’ money,” he said, “I hope nobody else, no other Hong Kong person goes through what I went through.”

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