Responding to Hong Kong’s newest surge of cases, mostly due to the Omicron variant, Chief Executive Carrie Lam has mandated all 7.4 million of its residents to undergo COVID testing.
Since the beginning of the Covid pandemic, Hong Kong’s officials have implemented some of the world’s strictest measures to contain the spread of the virus, including bans on flights, gatherings of more than two people, and school and business closures.
With the Omicron variant, Hong Kong has hit a record-breaking number of cases that has overwhelmed hospitals, test sites and quarantine facilities. It is now requiring all of its residents to complete three rounds of COVID testing beginning in March.
In a live broadcast, Lam stated that leadership had “no plans for any widespread city lockdown,” unlike at the beginning of the pandemic.
Many Hong Kong citizens have questioned the viability of a “dynamic zero COVID” strategy, and instead want to find ways to live with the virus as a part of everyday life, as many other countries have resorted to doing. Lam made it clear that Hong Kong would continue to adopt policies that would “differ” from other places in the world and that met the unique needs of the territory. She declined to provide specific dates as to when schools and businesses would reopen, although the previously expected timeline was April.
Lam met with several of the territory’s top property developers to open up hotel rooms for those who tested positive and were in need of quarantine quarters. Over 5,000 rooms are set to be made available by next week. Isolation sites are scheduled to increase by 28,000 by the end of March and by another 10,000 come later springtime.
In a newly released report by researchers at the University of Hong Kong, over 3,200 people are expected to die from the fifth wave of the COVID-19 epidemic, an exponentially higher figure than the original 950 predicted.
In a live Q&A broadcast with reporters, Lam noted, “We probably have not seen the peak of this wave.”
Hong Kong is scheduled to hold its chief executive elections in May. Lam assured reporters that there would be no delay in the event.
Featured image via Bloomberg Markets and Finance