Hong Kong to conduct compulsory COVID-19 testing on its entire population

Hong Kong to conduct compulsory COVID-19 testing on its entire population
FILE PHOTO: People queue in the rain at a makeshift testing centre for the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Hong Kong, China February 20, 2022. REUTERS/Lam Yik

The backstory:

  • Hong Kong is aiming for a “dynamic zero infection” situation, which, according to state-backed media outlet Xinhua news agency, does not mean trying to get to zero cases. Instead, it aims to identify new infections as early as possible so that the virus can be contained.
  • But despite the strategy, the city is now seeing its fifth wave and recording more cases than ever since the pandemic started over two years ago. These new cases started spiking after the Lunar New Year celebrations.
  • With that, Hong Kong has imposed its most stringent COVID-19 social distancing policies to date, with a vaccine pass being introduced on February 24 only allowing those who have received at least one dose of the vaccine into certain areas.
  • Secretary for Food and Health Sophia Chan told Commercial Radio Hong Kong on Sunday that there’s “definitely no room for relaxing social-distancing measures.”

The development:

  • On Tuesday, Hong Kong saw 6,211 confirmed cases with 9,369 preliminary infections, meaning these are people who need another test to confirm that they actually have COVID-19.
  • There were 32 deaths in the past 24 hours, and 19 patients are in critical condition.
  • At a press briefing, the city’s leader said: “The coming two or three months will be crucial in fighting the pandemic. We hope to stabilize the pandemic. In the meantime, we must reinforce our efforts in a number of areas.”
  • She ruled out the current possibility of a total lockdown but said there would be more targeted measures throughout the city where the outbreak is more severe. There have also been reports of mainland officials suggesting that Hong Kong consider a lockdown to contain the city’s outbreak.
  • Hong Kong will also do compulsory testing on its entire population (just under 7.5 million) three times next month.
  • The city, which currently has its most stringent rules to date, will also keep those in place until at least mid-April.
  • Meanwhile, a flight ban on nine countries, including the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia, will remain and be extended until April 20.
  • Face-to-face classes will remain suspended, and the city could use the campuses for isolating infected people. This comes after Lam requested property tycoons across the city to offer hotel space to those who test positive and have to isolate as the quarantine facilities reach full capacity and new facilities are still being built.

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