Everyone to be repeatedly tested for Covid next month

Chief Executive Carrie Lam on Tuesday announced a compulsory, universal Covid testing programme where 7.4 million residents will visit testing centres three times in March to have specimens taken.

The CE said the exercise will be aimed at identifying virus carriers in the community in a bid to curb the coronavirus outbreak.

Hundreds of testing centres will be set up across the city, and the testing schedule will be based on people’s year of birth. Anyone who doesn’t comply with the mandatory tests could be prosecuted, Lam said.

In between these tests, people will be told to do rapid tests every day, Lam said, adding that they will also be given KN95 face masks that can offer a high level of protection.

The CE said that with the help of mainland authorities, the daily testing capacity could be increased to one million a day or even more.

She reiterated that Hong Kong will not be placed under lockdown during the exercise, adding that she hopes residents will “embrace” the testing exercise to make it successful.

“We have no plans to disallow people to leave their homes because that would be very difficult to implement because a large number of people have to go out to work especially in relation to the anti-epidemic work,” she said.

“Let’s not focus on lockdown. Let’s focus on how we can ensure the 7.4 million people in Hong Kong will embrace this compulsory universal testing and take an active part so that it will be a successful scheme.”

The CE said people who test positive for the virus will be sent to isolation facilities as it would not be suitable for them to stay at home, whether or not they have symptoms.

She said the 5,000 isolation units at Penny’s Bay and the isolation hotels that Hong Kong currently has are not enough, so more than 50,000 new units will be made available in the coming months.

The first 7,000 units will come from three new public housing blocks in February, while another 16,000 will be provided by more isolation hotels and a facility to be set up at the Kai Tak Cruise Terminal in March.

In the following months, she said, 10,000 new units will be built at Penny’s Bay and at a site in Kai Tak.

Lam revealed that a further 20,000 units will be built at five locations identified by the government, in Tsing Yi, Hung Shui Kiu, San Tin, Yuen Long and Lok Ma Chau.

The central government will also build a new hospital in Lok Ma Chau.

The CE said private developers and universities have also offered sites they own to be used for isolation.

On inoculation against Covid-19, Lam said the target is that 90 percent of the eligible population will receive at least a first jab by the beginning of March.

For the elderly and children, she said she hoped vaccine take-up among them will increase to 90 percent by April.

She added that the authorities will shorten the minimum waiting time between a person’s second dose and their booster, to speed up vaccinations.

She appealed to Hong Kong people to be united and fight the battle against coronavirus together.

“It’s coming to the end of my tenure. I remember on the day when I took up the CE post and on various occasions, I talked about the importance of having confidence. I always say hope is a society’s motivation to go forward, while confidence is the basis of hope,” she said.

“With the support of the central government, Hong Kong was able to overcome political turmoil in the past few years and four waves of Covid infections. Today, the SAR is capable of winning the battle against the latest coronavirus outbreak, as long as people are united. We will see the rainbow after the storm. I hope we will stay confident.”

Last updated: 2022-02-22 HKT 22:06