Government officials in Hong Kong are going ahead with a plan to test all of the city’s 7.5 million people for COVID-19, according to a new report from Bloomberg News. And anyone who refuses to get tested could face a fine of over $US1,000 ($1,388).
The testing blitz, planned for sometime next month, comes as the city grapples with a huge spike in cases in recent weeks. Hong Kong reported 4,285 new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday, according to the South China Morning Post, up from two weeks ago when the city reported just 83 cases. Hong Kong reported 10 deaths on Wednesday, including a three-year-old child.
Medical experts from mainland China are reportedly on their way to Hong Kong in an effort to help overwhelmed officials in Hong Kong, according to Bloomberg, but that assistance comes with a political price. Hong Kong, which is officially a semi-autonomous region, has lost much of its autonomy from Beijing in recent years, despite pro-democracy protests in the streets.
Hong Kong has built temporary tent facilities outside of major health centres to deal with the influx of patients and is renting 10,000 hotel rooms to give people who test positive a place to isolate away from roommates and family members, according to a new report from Reuters.
China has been tremendously successful at combating COVID-19, with aggressive testing, tracing, and isolation tactics that were abandoned by the west many years ago. China is the only large country still pursuing a COVID-zero approach of completely eliminating the disease, but Hong Kong’s most recent outbreak may be too far gone to be completely controlled. But Beijing wants it to try.
“With the utmost concern and staunch support of President Xi Jinping […] all in society must now join hands in riding out the fifth wave of the epidemic, displaying the Hong Kong spirit in full,” Chief Executive Carrie Lam said in a statement on Thursday.
“I am optimistic that, through the joint efforts by the Government and hotel sector, at least 10,000 hotel rooms could be made available,” Lam continued.
Hong Kong has reported over 30,000 cases of COVID-19 and just 227 deaths from the disease since the pandemic began in early 2020. Its low case count makes it one of the best faring regions of the entire world, especially for a large city.
The U.S. has seen a significant decline in cases over the past few weeks after its own omicron surge. The country reported 127,808 new cases on Wednesday and 3,025 new deaths. The number of daily deaths from COVID-19 has stopped escalating, but hasn’t really come down in any substantial way over the past week. The U.S. is averaging about 2,344 new deaths each and every day, with over 930,000 deaths total since the pandemic began.