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Over 18k COVID-19 cases detected

The Centre for Health Protection today said it is investigating 18,751 additional locally acquired COVID-19 cases, of which 4,000 were identified through nucleic acid tests and 14,751 via rapid antigen tests.   Separately, 954 imported cases were detected.   Thirty-eight residential care homes for the elderly and 13 for disabled people logged 95 cases involving their residents as well as 12 infections among staff.   Meanwhile, there were 890 positive cases concerning 705 students and 185 staff filed by 408 schools.   In addition to reporting that 31 patients passed away in public hospitals due to the coronavirus, the Hospital Authority registered 34 more critical patients, bringing the number of patients in critical condition to 158.   Due to a number of positive cases, nine specified places are included in a compulsory testing notice. It also covers another place in Sheung Shui where some sewage samples tested positive for the virus.   People who wish to undergo a free nucleic acid test may visit community testing centres or community testing stations.   The Government also announced that starting December 23, two types of people will be exempted from compulsory testing. As such, they are advised to conduct rapid antigen tests voluntarily where necessary.   These people include those holding a medical certificate issued by a registered medical practitioner proving that they are unfit to undergo testing using a sample taken through a throat swab because of health reasons, and those with genuine difficulty to undergo testing owing to mobility difficulties.   Having reviewed the usage and public demand for the testing services, the Government has decided to cease the distribution and collection services of deep throat saliva (DTS) specimen collection packs.   Starting December 24, DTS specimen collection packs will no longer be given out at designated Hospital Authority general outpatient clinics, post offices and MTR stations. Starting January 1, 2023, DTS specimens will no longer be collected at designated general outpatient clinics, clinics of the Department of Health and government premises.   As there were positive sewage test results with relatively high viral loads in several areas of North, Sai Kung and Southern districts, the respective district offices will distribute COVID-19 rapid test kits to relevant residents as well as cleaning workers and property management staff working there.   Furthermore, in light of the rising demand for holding centres, the Social Welfare Department today announced that the quarantine centres at Halls 11, 9 and 6 at AsiaWorld-Expo will be converted to holding centres starting from December 24, 27 and 28 to receive seniors and people with disabilities with COVID-19 who are asymptomatic or showing mild symptoms.   For information and health advice on COVID-19, visit the Government's dedicated webpage.