COVID-19: Invitation to participate in an important local study

There is international agreement that testing is a key factor in the control of the COVID-19 epidemic. We have previously explained the importance of understanding the number of people in the population that have already been infected by the virus. Currently this is a key piece of missing data. Knowing how many people have experienced undiagnosed infections will allow us to better understand both the severity of the disease and to predict and plan the population health controls that may be necessary in the future.

We are looking for volunteers who are prepared to donate a blood sample. This blood sample will be tested to determine if you have antibodies against the SARS-COV-2 (COVID-19) virus. This result will tell us if you have had the infection in the past. This is a historical test and is NOT intended to tell you if you have the infection at the moment. There will be no public health implications, specifically you will NOT be hospitalized or quarantined on the basis of this result. The doctor who explains the blood test to you at the time of giving the sample will inform you of your individual result by telephone or email. All data in the study will be anonymized, your name will not be used in any study publications.

OT&P has a population demographic which is highly international and includes a large number of frequent travellers. Our patients provide an important potential cohort in order to assess the current background infection rate in people who have and have not travelled outside of Hong Kong since January 1, 2020. We proposed a study to our colleagues in the school of Public Health and it was deemed to be of such potential importance that it has been given accelerated approval by the institutional review board of Hong Kong University and the Hospital Authority. The results of this study will be used to facilitate evidence-based public health policy decisions as the current epidemic unfolds in Hong Kong.

Depending upon the results some people will be asked to donate a further sample(s) at a later date. The nature of the study means that we need some volunteers from different age groups in addition to those with and without a travel history outside of Hong Kong since January 1 2020:

Anyone who registers for the study will receive an email with an online questionnaire. You must complete the questionnaire first. We will then arrange an appointment with a doctor to draw a blood sample. We have enhanced infection control procedures and triage systems to ensure the safety of patients within our clinics. Participation is voluntary and any individual can withdraw consent at any point. The study will be funded by the Health and Medical Research fund and there will be no charge nor payment for any consultation or testing. OT&P will receive no compensation for participation in the study. All time provided by OT&P medical staff and all internal resources will be given on a voluntary basis as a component of our ongoing public health contribution.

A summary of the study can be found here.

Please register here if you wish to participate.

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