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Estimating the Longitudinal Seroprevalence of COVID-19 in Hong Kong


Study Aim

The aim of this study is to obtain detailed longitudinal estimates of the age-specific seroprevalence against SARS-CoV-2 in the coming 6-12 months, and estimate the reproductive number of the virus in Hong Kong to assess the effectiveness of community- wide interventions that Hong Kong is currently and will be implementing.


On March 11, 2020, the World Health Organization declared that the rapidly spreading novel coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2, constituted a global pandemic1. As of April 14th, 2020, there have been 1,773,084 laboratory-confirmed cases of COVID-19 worldwide, including 111,652 deaths2.

It is crucial for clinical and public health planning to estimate the transmissibility and severity of a novel virus, especially one that could cause a global pandemic3, 4. At the population level, determining the shape and size of the “clinical iceberg”, both above and below the observable threshold, is key to understanding transmission dynamics and interpreting epidemic trajectories. The consensus among public health and medical professionals is that there are many mild SARS-CoV-2 infections that are not detected by the surveillance system based on symptoms, thus making the estimation of the infection attack rates difficult. In addition, there has been a significantly lower proportion of symptomatic COVID-19 cases among children, while the reason for this phenomenon remains unknown.

IRB Study Application Investigators

  • Professor Joseph Wu is a professor in the School of Public Health at The University of Hong Kong. He specializes in disease modelling and data science.

  • Dr David Owens is a specialist in family medicine. He is an honorary clinical assistant professor in family medicine at The University of Hong Kong.

  • Professor Malik Peiris is a chair professor in virology, Tam Wah-Ching Professor in Medical Science in the School of Public Health at The University of Hong Kong.

  • Professor Gabriel M. Leung is an infectious disease epidemiologist, Dean of Medicine and Zimmern Professor of Population Health at The University of Hong Kong.

  • Dr Kathy Leung is a Research Assistant Professor in the school of Public Health at The University of Hong Kong

This study has been approved by the Research Ethics Committee/Institutional Review Board. It will be funded by the Health and Medical Research Fund of the Food and Health Bureau. The study is covered by the Professional Indemnity Insurance Policy for research projects conducted by the University of Hong Kong. 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.

Key References

1. World Health Organization. Rolling updates on coronavirus disease (COVID-19). 2020 [cited 2020 March 12]; Available from:

2. World Health Organization. Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) Situation Report 64. 2020 [cited 2020 March 25]; Available from: 19.pdf?sfvrsn=703b2c40_2.

3. Wu, P., et al., Real-time tentative assessment of the epidemiological characteristics of novel coronavirus infections in Wuhan, China, as at 22 January 2020. Eurosurveillance, 2020. 25(3): p. 2000044.

4. Cowling, B.J. and G.M. Leung, Epidemiological research priorities for public health control of the ongoing global novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) outbreak. Euro Surveill, 2020. 25(6): p. 2000110.

5. Wu, J.T., K. Leung, and G.M. Leung, Nowcasting and forecasting the potential domestic and international spread of the 2019-nCoV outbreak originating in Wuhan, China: a modelling study. The Lancet, 2020.

6. Wu, J.T., et al., Estimating clinical severity of COVID-19 from the transmission dynamics in Wuhan, China. Nature Medicine, 2020.

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Topics: COVID-19

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