Hong Kong authorities on Saturday asked the entire population of more than 7.4 million people to voluntarily test themselves for COVID-19 at home for three consecutive days starting next week.
Chief Executive Carrie Lam’s announcement on Saturday came as the southern Chinese city struggles to contain a fifth wave of infections that has led to mixed signals about testing and lockdowns.
Lam said “compulsory and universal testing” of the whole population is still essential, but she did not say when that might happen. Authorities scrapped the idea after a previous announcement prompted panic buying.
The prospect of further school closures and other disruptions has placed the government between calls to ease restrictions and Beijing’s demand for an extreme “zero-COVID” approach imposing lockdowns and mass testing. .
Hong Kong, a semi-autonomous territory, on Friday lifted a ban on residents returning on flights from nine countries where COVID-19 cases have risen, including Britain and the United States.
Hong Kong reported another 5,820 cases on Friday as the latest surge begins to wane.
Meanwhile, in northern Shanghai, authorities are struggling to meet the lockdown demands of many of the city’s 26 million people – China’s biggest such undertaking since the virus was first detected in the central city of Wuhan in late 2019.
Shanghai is implementing a two-stage eight-day lockdown, but many of those on the east side, or Pudong, of the city who should have been free to leave their compounds on Friday remained in isolation.
Authorities have placed the other half of the city, Puxi, under lockdown with non-essential businesses and public transport halted and roads cleared of cars and people. A total of 14 million Puxi residents were tested on Friday, according to state media.
Isolation centers would be under pressure
Residents in isolation have complained of difficulties obtaining food, household items and medicine, while beds and staff at isolation centers have reportedly been insufficient for the number of asymptomatic patients and others brought there for observation.
China detected another 2,086 confirmed cases on Saturday, including 260 in Shanghai, and 7,789 asymptomatic cases, including 6,051 in Shanghai. The total number of new cases has been near record highs for several days, but no new deaths have been reported since March 20, leaving China’s total at 4,638. China has recorded a total of 153,232 cases, according to the National Health Commission.
Compared to Wuhan in 2020, Shanghai has benefited from China’s experience and is better prepared even though the epidemic is on a larger scale, said Chen Erzhen, commander of the third contingent of medical teams dispatched to the city. , quoted by the official Xinhua agency. Daily newspaper.
Indeed, the Omicron BA.2 subvariant is more infectious but less virulent, resulting in a large number of asymptomatic cases, which China has classified separately from “confirmed” cases.
“There is more pressure because the larger number of patients increases the task of controlling the epidemic,” Chen said. “But at present, the situation in Shanghai is under control, and we will continue to treat and isolate if necessary.”