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Hong Kong Urges Residents Fretting Over COVID Measures Not To Panic

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Hong Kong Urges Residents Fretting Over COVID Measures Not To Panic

Hong Kong’s government said any decision to impose a COVID-19 lockdown would take into account the global financial hub’s status and ensure basic needs, and it urged anxious residents who thronged supermarkets this week not to panic.

The government said it was still planning and “refining” a compulsory mass COVID testing scheme and would announce details when they had been confirmed.

The government would “safeguard the status of Hong Kong as a financial centre when implementing the Compulsory Universal Testing scheme (CUT)”, it said.

“The experience of implementing a CUT initiative in other parts of the world shows that the basic needs of citizens such as food, necessities and the seeking of medical attention outside home should be addressed.”

Citizens should not “panic nor scramble or stockpile the relevant supplies”.

The government statement, released late on Tuesday, comes amid widespread confusion and chaos with many residents frustrated with the mixed messaging and almost daily tweaking of coronavirus rules.

Leader Carrie Lam had previously said that a citywide lockdown and compulsory testing were not being considered.

However, Health Secretary Sophia Chan said on Monday a lockdown had not been ruled out, fuelling rumours and sparking a rush for groceries, pharmacy products and banking services.

Hong Kong has stuck firmly to a “dynamic zero” coronavirus policy, like in mainland China, seeking to stamp out all outbreaks with sweeping restrictions and quarantine.

But the highly infectious Omicon variant of the virus has breached defences time and again and some business leaders and medical experts have questioned the sustainability of a zero COVID policy as cases surge.

Hospitals and mortuaries are operating at maximum capacity as deaths climb.

Authorities have been racing to build tens of thousands of isolation units to quarantine those with mild or no symptoms, further worrying some residents who see the rest of the world choosing a “live with the virus” approach, relying on high levels of vaccination and mitigation measures such as masks to try to pull through their Omicron surges.

The former British colony has reported more than 238,000 coronavirus infections and about 1,000 deaths since the pandemic began in 2020. About 600 of those deaths have been in the past week, with the majority unvaccinated people.

Daily reported infections have soared more than 30 times to over 30,000 since the beginning of February when there were about 100 daily cases.

Health experts from the University of Hong Kong said there were about 1.7 million people already infected as of Monday, with a peak of about 183,000 daily infections expected in the coming week.

Prominent businessman Allan Zeman said in a letter circulated online that Hong Kong’s international reputation had been “very damaged” and the confusing messages from the government were creating “widespread panic”.

“I worry that we are doing real damage to HK society and to our economy. There are too many rumours floating around and such a feeling of uncertainty,” Zeman said in a letter addressed to Lam.

He said he was worried that Chinese-ruled Hong Kong’s role as an international city with its “one country, two systems” formula could disappear.

“China needs an international Hong Kong and not just another city of 7 million people,” he wrote.

“We need very clear messaging giving people hope and direction for an end to this nightmare.”

Zeman was not immediately available for comment. His office declined to verify the letter, referring queries to Zeman.

 

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