Test Yourself At Home for COVID-19
14th June 2022
At present, three types of tests are currently available in Hong Kong to test for infection with COVID-19. Two of them — a DNA test and a blood test — are conducted in a clinic or a hospital and then analyzed in a lab.
A third alternative is an antibody or antigen test that you can do yourself from home in the forms of a nasal swab test, a pharyngeal swab test or a finger prick blood test. This article will focus on the mobile test kit and give you details on the product itself, the type of testing it provides, pros and cons as well as how it works.
COVID-19 mobile test kits can be ordered online and shipped to your home or office in Hong Kong and internationally.
What is a COVID-19 rapid test?
Rapid antigen test (RAT)
An antigen rapid test relies on detecting the COVID-19 virus proteins (antigens), specifically the nucleocapsid protein, in a respiratory specimen to determine its presence. Antigens can usually be detected around 3 days after contracting the virus. It can be done in a home setting within 30 minutes.
Rapid antigen test is also the most common self-test accepted by the government as an indicator of an infection.
Antibody mobile test
An antibody mobile test is carried out by a device that pricks your finger for blood to determine whether there are antibodies of the COVID-19 virus in your blood sample. Specifically, it looks for IgM antibodies, which the immune system produces early in the course of most viral infections, as well as IgG antibodies, which appear later as the disease progresses. Antibodies can be detected as early as 3 days after infection, with slight variations between individuals. However, for people who have been vaccinated, these antibody tests may not be accurate to reflect an infection.
Antibody mobile test kits are readily purchasable online or at local pharmacies and can be performed in the comfort of home. Results are delivered in about 15 minutes.
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Rapid antigen tests: How to use
Tests are available for your choice mainly in a few types: deep throat saliva sample test, nasal swab test and less popular, fingertip blood test.
Wash hands before and after performing the test and collect the sample in a well-ventilated place.
For a nasal swab or deep throat saliva sample test, collect a sample with the swab and fully submerge it into the buffer solution provided. After that, drip the solution into the well of the test device and wait for the results.
After the test, wrap and seal the test kit to dispose properly.
As the procedures may differ for different brands, please refer to the instructions on your test kit carefully before using it.
A negative result indicates no infection or infection at a very early stage or in recovery. A positive result indicates an infection with coronavirus. The overall accuracy of these tests is around 91.61% (may vary).
Read the government's instructions on rapid antigen tests here for more details.
For those interested in further exploring this type of testing, several online providers carry CFDA and European CE-certified antigen and antibody home test kits that can be delivered locally as well as in many countries worldwide.
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What to do if I get a positive result?
If a positive result is obtained through a rapid test kit, you should report your result to the Department of Health:
- if you are under home quarantine: via the "StayHomeSafe" Scheme Hotline 1833 019
- if you stayed in areas with positive sewage testing results: via the dedicated 24-hour hotline 2280 4772 to arrange door-to-door sample collection service for confirmatory testing free of charge
The Centre for Health Protection set up an online system for people to report their positive results from RAT for easier follow-up of the authorities. You may fill in relevant information at the newly available platform from 6pm, March 7 at https://www.chp.gov.hk/ratp.
Those with higher health risks or more severe symptoms will be arranged for hospitalization, whereas those with mild or no symptoms should isolate themselves at home or wait to be sent to a quarantine facility by the Department of Health. Quarantine may end after 14 days and upon reading a negative test result in 7 days if the person is vaccinated with the first two doses.
Owing to the severe epidemic situation under the Fifth wave, treatment facilities in Hong Kong may not be able to admit all cases who tested positive for COVID-19. The authority has decided to prioritize more urgent cases and patients with higher risks. Meanwhile, as community isolation facilities are inadequate at the moment, people who tested positive or preliminary positive and experience no or mild symptoms should remain calm and keep monitoring their physical condition waiting for admission at home.
Meanwhile, you should stay home and if your living environment permits, stay in your own room and avoid contact with anyone else. Wear a mask if you have to leave your room and practice strict hygiene measures at all times.
You may call the Hospital Authority's hotline at 1836 115 from 8am to 10pm on any day for medical information and infection control advice. Seek medical attention if your symptoms worsen.
What COVID-19 rapid antigen test kits are available in Hong Kong?
If you want to get a rapid test at home, COVID-19 antibody test kits are readily available for online orders and in many registered pharmacies over Hong Kong, including chains like Mannings and Watsons.
When choosing a self-test kit, read the product information carefully and check if it has been approved an authoritative body. The World Health Organization recommends the tests have a minimum sensitivity of 80% and specificity of 97%. The government has provided 4 approved lists of products for your reference:
- Hong Kong Department of Health – Listed Rapid Antigen Tests for COVID-19 under the Medical Device Administrative Control System
- China National Medical Products Administration – List of approved medical devices for COVID-19 preventive and control uses (Chinese version only)
- European Union – Common list of COVID-19 rapid antigen tests
- USA Food and Drug Administration – List of SARS-CoV-2 antigen diagnostic tests with Emergency Use Authorization
To save you time, we have summarized a few RAT products as below.
Rapid antigen test (RAT) kits
CO-Check COVID-19 Rapid Antigen Test (Available in Mannings)
- Manufactured in Hong Kong, accredited by ISO 13485 medical device quality management system.
- Nasal swab test, result within 15 minutes.
- 98.8% accuracy.
- Indicative price: HK$120
- Manufactured in China, certified by EU's common list of COVID-19 rapid antigen tests.
- Nasal swab test, results in 10-15 minutes.
- Relative Sensitivity 97.5%; relative Specificity over 99%.
- Indicative price: HK$108
- Manufactured by Arista Biotech in Singapore, complies with EU standards.
- Deep throat saliva sample test, results in 15 minutes.
- Accuracy >96.3%
- Indicative price: HK$168
- Manufactured in Hong Kong, accredited by FDA EUA and EU CE mark.
- Nasal swab test, results in 20 minutes.
- Clinically validated with overall sensitivity and specificity at 96% and 99% respectively.
- Indicative price: HK$120/150
- Manufactured in China, approved by EU's common list agreed by the Health Security Committee of European Union.
- Nasal swab test, results in 15 minutes.
- Sensitivity: 98.5%
- Indicative price: HK$195 / 2 tests
- Manufactured by Shenzhen CAS-Envision Medical Technology, Co. Ltd. in China, enlisted by EU.
- Nasal or throat swab, results in 15-20 minutes.
- Nasal swab sensitivity: 97.5%, specificity: 96.2%; deep throat saliva sample sensitivity: 95.8%, specificity: 98.4%
- Indicative price: HK$99
iHealth COVID-19 Antigen Rapid Test (Available on iHealth)
- Made in China, authorized by FDA under an EUA
- Nasal swab test, results in 15 minutes
- Accuracy: correctly identified 94.3% of positive specimens and 98.1% of negative specimens
- Indicative price: HK$140 (2 tests)
- Manufactured by Xiamen Wiz Biotech Co., Ltd in China, approved by EU.
- Nasal swab test, results in 15 minutes.
- Overall sensitivity and specificity at 98.26% and 99.19% respectively.
- Indicative price: HK$76/99
Rapid antibody tests
There are a few manufacturers of COVID-19 Antibody Mobile Test Kit that have obtained both CFDA and CE certification and are allowed to export out of China. As you can see from the information below, these test kits have been approved by the Department of Health in Australia and the FDA in the Philippines.
- List of approved test kits by the Department of Health in Australia
- FDA in the Philippines approves test
- Nature medical journal on test kits (and lists Wandfo product)
Dr. Freeman ANTIBODIES Test Kit (2 Test per box) (Available in Watsons)
- Originally made in Korea, certified by the European Union and ISO.
- Fingertip blood test, results in 15 minutes.
- Detection of new antibodies against IgG and IgM, accuracy up to 90%
- Indicative price: HK$389 / 2 tests
*The above information is based on research last conducted online on February 28, 2022. Please always check directly with providers/retailers for the most up-to-date information.
Important: The results from rapid antigen or antibody testing should not be used as the sole basis to diagnose an infection. Any positive result will require further investigation. Please note that the negative result also does not guarantee that you will not become infected in the future. Please seek medical advice if you have fever, respiratory symptoms, contact with confirmed cases of COVID-19 patients or traveled to high-risk epidemic regions.
Why use it?
The kits are convenient, confidential and allow users to maintain social distancing at a time when many people are reluctant to visit healthcare facilities. They are also easy-to-use, increasingly affordable and can potentially improve health care for patients in areas where access is limited.
Because they deliver on-the-spot results in minutes, they can rapidly provide clues on the next steps for diagnosis and care.
At present, no home test kit is 100% accurate to confirm whether an individual has been exposed to the virus. Specifically, none are accurate enough at identifying people who have had the virus, a property called test sensitivity, and those who have not been infected, known as test specificity. To get a sense, while a high-quality test should achieve 99% or more in terms of sensitivity and specificity, some commercial antibody tests have recorded specificities as low as 40% early in the infection.
Also, an important unknown surrounding antibodies tests is that scientists do not know exactly when specific antibodies develop and how long they stay in the body. As a result, the tests might miss cases if samples are taken too early, when the viral load is too low or if the person's body has not produced antibodies against the virus yet. Another big question is the extent to which being infected confers immunity to reinfection. There may also be variations between individuals.
Accuracy is also determined by sample collection. Home tests are conducted in a less controlled environment than a lab, which can affect the performance of the kit.
For all the reasons outlined above, home test kits can be a helpful tool for early screening, but cannot be used as the sole basis for diagnosis. Further testing may be required in the event of a positive result.
Looking to get further testing? Check out our guide on getting a COVID-19 test in Hong Kong.
How does a home COVID-19 test work?
If you are infected with COVID-19, an antigen test can detect specific antigens (virus protein) present in your respiratory tract; an antibody test can detect antibodies present in your bloodstream from around 3 days after you have contracted the virus. A positive result indicates an infection. Beware that home testing kits may not be able to detect a positive result if you are still in a very early stage of infection, or are recovering.
Where can I find rapid test kits for COVID-19 in Hong Kong?
COVID-19 test kits are widely available in Hong Kong, whether you prefer to order one online, or simply from a local pharmacy, including Mannings and Watsons.
What should I do if i test positive with a home testing kit?
Report to the Department of Health via their designated hotline or their online system. Get an approved COVID-19 test in a hospital or with a deep throat saliva collection bottle collectible in specified locations as soon as possible and notify the medical staff. Meanwhile, wear a mask and strictly observe social distancing measures to minimize potential risks of infection.
While COVID-19 antibody test kits on the market have an overall accuracy of over 90%, a false positive result is possible.
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