Beijing offers Hong Kong help with containing omicron outbreak

Beijing offers Hong Kong help with containing omicron outbreak
FILE PHOTO: Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam speaks without a mask during a news conference in Hong Kong, China January 22, 2022. REUTERS/Joyce Zhou/File Photo

The backstory:

  • Hong Kong and the mainland are both adopting a zero-COVID-19 stance. And, until they get their virus situation contained within their own borders, neither will be opening up to one another nor the rest of the world.
  • On several occasions in the past, Hong Kong has announced plans to open up the border with the mainland. But because of cases found on both sides, the plan to do this keeps getting pushed back.
  • China helped Hong Kong with its COVID-19 situation in the past also. Most notably, in August 2020 with a voluntary citywide testing campaign with more than half a million residents tested. But, some started to worry that China was collecting their DNA samples. Authorities denied these claims.
  • Hong Kong recently recorded its highest number of COVID-19 cases in a year after an omicron cluster outbreak at a large public housing estate, with more than 200 people testing positive.

The development:

  • At her weekly press briefing, the city’s Chief Executive Carrie Lam said that they are currently testing about 150,000 people per day and are thinking about how they can increase this number.
  • Lam added that Beijing had offered support. “Guangdong province has expressed to my office that they are happy to render support,” she said. “So, it’s about considering how we can best utilize their support to help Hong Kong.” She also said that right now, broader lockdowns aren’t necessary.
  • “If some help from the mainland is required, this is something we would not turn down. After all, we are family.”
  • Lam was asked why she didn’t wear a mask to her press briefings when it’s mandatory across the city. She explained that it was intentional and “well-thought-out behavior.”
  • “People in Hong Kong have to hear very clearly from the chief executive — what are the messages that she is conveying to the public? Maybe in Hong Kong, they even have to feel my emotions.”
  • “I’m very somber because I’m very worried. Wearing a mask would not allow people to see that for themselves.”

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