Hong Kong will start Covid-19 testing for all residents in March 2022. Everyone will be required to take three rounds of PCR tests and daily rapid tests. The city will shut schools to turn them into Covid-19 response centers.
Hong Kong will test its entire population of 7.5 million people for COVID-19 in March, the city’s leader said Tuesday, as it grapples with its worst outbreak driven by the omicron variant.
The population will be tested three times in March, Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam said. She said testing capacity will be boosted to 1 million a day or more. Since we have a population of some 7 million people, testing will take about seven days.
Hong Kong has reported about 5,000 new daily infections since Feb. 15, with the cases threatening to overwhelm its health care system. Since the current surge began at the beginning of the year, the city has recorded nearly 54,000 cases and 145 deaths.
The order for citywide testing comes after mainland Chinese authorities dispatched epidemiologists, health workers and other medical resources last week to help contain the outbreak in the semi-autonomous Chinese city.
Hong Kong has largely aligned itself with mainland China’s “ZERO-COVID-19” policy, which aims to totally stamp out outbreaks, even as many other countries are shifting their approach to living with the virus.
Lock downs of entire cities have been imposed in a number of areas of the mainland, but Lam said no such measure is currently being considered in Hong Kong because it is not realistic.
She also denied that the central Chinese government is giving instructions to Hong Kong on how to handle the epidemic.
The “ZERO-COVID-19” strategy means that Hong Kong authorities often take measures such as locking down residential estates for mass testing when positive cases are detected, imposing strict quarantine requirements on travelers and ordering the shuttering of businesses.
Health officials said last week that hospitals were already at 90% of capacity and isolation facilities were full. People who test positive for the virus in Hong Kong must either be admitted to a hospital or a quarantine facility.
Current social-distancing measures, such as a ban on dining at restaurants after 6 p.m. and the closure of businesses such as gyms and bars, will be extended until April 20, 2022.
Other measures announced Tuesday include ending the school year early and moving the normal July-August summer holidays forward to March and April so that schools can be turned into facilities for testing, isolation and vaccination.
Flight bans from countries classified as high risk, including Australia, Canada, India, Nepal, Pakistan, the Philippines, Britain and the USA, will be extended to April 20, 2022.
ABC Flash Point News 2022.