Across the University, faculties and departments have responded quickly to the COVID-19 pandemic from the earliest stages of the outbreak. We have engaged in ground-breaking research, while keeping  the campus safe for learning and teaching.  We  also reached out to offer help to communities in need.

World-Leading Research


Scholars at the HKU Faculty of Medicine have moved quickly in advancing our knowledge of the coronavirus, and have published countless papers and articles detailing their findings. Below are some of their milestones in the fight against COVID-19, as reported by HKUMed at the Vanguard. For details, please visit

Reported the first family cluster evidence of person-to-person transmission

HKU microbiologists, with the HKU-Shenzhen Hospital, established that the novel coronavirus could be transmitted from person-to-person. The finding sent alarm throughout the world on the looming pandemic. It also provides the basis for development of control measures.

Early alert of the pandemic

Researchers produced two studies through the WHO Collaboration Centre alerted the world to the pandemic and the threat it posed, based on the pattern of cases arisings in the first half of January.

Documented the viral shedding profile of SARS-CoV-2

The discovery indicated transmission early in the course of the illness, highlighting that it was unlikely to be contained in the way that SARS had been in 2003.

Proposed the use of deep throat saliva

The method, using saliva as a diagnostic specimen type for the detection of SARS-CoV-2, has been widely adopted for testing the virus.

First electron microscopic images of the SARS-CoV-2 virus

The image was produced in collaboration with the Faculty of Engineering, which helped other researchers and professionals to identify the virus.

Developed rapid nucleic acid amplification tests

The rapid nucleic acid amplification tests developed in March had been used by laboratories in more than 70 countries and territories to help identify COVID-19 virus in patients.

Cocktail and blood plasma therapy for COVID-19

The triple combination antiviral therapy of interferon beta-1b, lopinavir-ritonavir and ribavirin could suppress the SARS-CoV-2 viral load and cytokine, which resulted in the earlier clinical improvement and discharge of COVID-19 patients.

First case of reinfection

The study is the first in the world to document that a patient previously recovered from COVID-19 had been reinfected with SARSCoV-2. Samples taken from the patient at each time of infection were compared and shown to be two different lineages of the virus.


Aerosol transmission of SARS-CoV-2

HKU’s Department of Mechanical Engineering has shown that COVID-19 can be transmitted several metres by air in a room with poor ventilation.


Prediction of COVID-19 distribution with Population flow

A team of business and statistics researchers have developed a model to accurately predict COVID-19’s spread and assess risk using only mobile phone data. The study shows how Population flow drives spatio-temporal distribution of COVID-19 in China.


Digital citizenship and the digital divide

The Faculty of Education study shows the huge intra-and inter-school differences in students’ digital competence among primary and secondary schools in Hong Kong.

Teaching and Learning

We focus on the active and the interactive. That’s one of the things that comes out of this experiment — how can we capture as much interactive learning as possible? A lot of resources can be found online. Students are used to going online. What we want to do is to actually engage in dialogue and interactive learning with them. Online teaching is enabling us to expand our ways of doing that.

Ian Holliday
Vice-President (Teaching and Learning)

With a history of developing online courses, the university was well prepared to move courses  online.  In 2002, the university offered both face-to-face and online learning, in response to waves of the pandemics.

Teachers experimented with flipped classrooms, Moocs and other digital innovations, supported by Information Technology Services and a team of designers, developers, and IT specialists at the Technology-Enriched Learning Initiative.  It was a year of   experimentation, learning, and innovation, with the central goal of fostering student  learning in a safe and creative environment.

Professor James Tang, Secretary-General of the University Grants Committee, addressed “Re-imaginign Higher Education,”  an  e-symposium showcasing “Responsive4U,” a pioneering project on online and hybrid education. More than 2,000 undergraduates at HKU, CUHK, PolyU and UST,  earned academic credits from a pool of 11 courses, offered separately by the universities.

Serving the Public

Mask giving

The HKU Development and Alumni Affairs Office collaborated with 19 social welfare organisations to deliver over 20,000 face masks donated by HKU alumni to the elderly.


The university launched the “StandByU” and “ShareWithU” platforms to disseminate reliable information and research findings on COVID-19 via digital channels. In “LIVE with the Top Scorers,’ HKU students with excellent HKDSE and IB scores shared their thoughts with students taking these examinations.  “ShareWithU” distributed masks and alcohol-hand sanitizers on matching

HKU Medic HELP graphics and advisories

HKUMed produced a series of graphic guides to offer expert advice and health tips to the public. Topics include the proper way of mask-wearing, the meaning of “rapid test”, and how viruses live in different environments.

In February, the early days of the COVID19 outbreak, HKU created the FightCOVID19 site ( to serve as a repository of the university’s effort in research, learning and public service in combating the pandemic. In addition to aggregating the good work from across the university, FightCOVIDHKU launched a “Live from Hong Kong” dialogue series featuring HKU experts who shared our experience with a global audience. Other original work of the site include a podcast series, in-depth practical advisories and an interactive map on incidences of COVID19 cases in Hong Kong


Online posts


Site views


Unique visits


Countries reached

The Towel Story

Alerted by a citizen, the FightCOVID19. HKU media team visited wet markets and reported on the common use of public towels at fish stalls, which could lead to virus transmission, Our report was widely reported in the news media, prompting official action to ban the use of such towels. The towel story  has shown that the media, working in collaboration with experts, government, and the public, could contribute to building a safe and healthy Hong Kong.