March 3, 2022: -Hong Kong government said any decision to impose a Covid-19 lockdown would consider the global financial hub’s status and ensure basic needs. It urged anxious residents who thronged supermarkets this week not to panic.
Health authorities are due to report more than 50,000 new infections on Wednesday, setting a new daily record, broadcaster TVB said. Infections had surged since the beginning of February when there were about 100 daily cases.
The government said it was still planning and “refining” a compulsory mass Covid-19 testing scheme and would announce details when they were confirmed.
The government would “safeguard the status of Hong Kong as a financial center 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 like food, necessities and the seeking of medical attention outside the home should be addressed.”
Citizens do not have to “panic, scramble, or stockpile the relevant supplies.”
The government statement, released on Tuesday, comes between widespread confusion and chaos, with many residents frustrated with the mixed messaging and almost daily tweaking of coronavirus rules.
Leader Carrie Lam had said that a citywide lockdown and compulsory testing were not considered.
However, Health Secretary Sophia Chan said a lockdown had not been ruled out on Monday, fueling rumors and sparking a rush for groceries, pharmacy products, and banking services.
Like mainland China, Hong Kong has stuck firmly to a “dynamic zero” coronavirus policy, seeking to stamp out all outbreaks with sweeping restrictions and quarantine.
But the infectious omicron variant of the virus has breached defenses repeatedly, and few business leaders and medical experts have questioned the sustainability of a zero-Covid-19 policy as cases surge.
Hospitals and mortuaries operate 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, which relies 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.
Health experts from the University of Hong Kong said about 1.7 million people were already infected on Monday, with a peak of about 183,000 daily infections expected in the coming week.