Hong Kong will require its more than seven million residents to undergo coronavirus testing in March, Carrie Lam, Hong Kong’s chief executive, said Tuesday, as the territory struggles to contain its worst outbreak.
Three tests will be required for residents starting in March. In a news conference, Mrs. Lam stated that Hong Kong will increase its testing capacity to one-million tests per day, from approximately 200,000 tests per day by next month.
Pro-Beijing politicians had pressured Hong Kong to implement some of the more aggressive measures used to quell outbreaks in mainland China. This included citywide lockdowns, universal testing, and citywide lockdowns. Hong Kong doesn’t have the right tools, such as enough staffing or movement tracking applications, to conduct such extensive exercises. Mrs. Lam had previously rejected extensive testing, stating that Hong Kong was not equipped to handle so many samples in such short periods of time.
The latest wave of infections has seen the city’s total number of cases surpass the previous two years, leaving hospitals overflowing. This has prompted the authorities to increase their efforts. To accommodate coronavirus patients, new isolation facilities have been built. A large-scale hospital has also been planned. Mrs. Lam stated that experts from the Mainland arrived last week to help with testing and will also assist in building new infrastructure.
Mrs. Lam stated that summer break for secondary and primary students will be moved to March and April so schools can be used for testing, isolation, and vaccination efforts. Additionally, there will be more isolation units built to increase the capacity to 28,000 next months from the current 5,000. Mrs. Lam stated that another 10,000 units would be built in the spring. To isolate mild cases, hotels that were used previously for quarantining will also serve their purpose.
Although the territory has always sent all Covid patients to a hospital, or an isolation facility, the latest surge in cases has meant that 30,000 people infected with Covid are now waiting at home due to a shortage of hospitals, Mrs. Lam stated.
Hong Kong was once a leader in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic. But, a wave Omicron infections that started late last year has weakened its defenses. According to government data, it has seen 145 deaths and more 53,000 coronavirus-related cases this year. This compares with 213 deaths in 2020 and 2021 and more than 12,000 cases for 2021.
Researchers from the University of Hong Kong have increased the number of people who will die in the current wave to 3,200. They cite ineffective social distancing methods as the reason for the increase in deaths.
Source: NY Times