Hong Kong urges residents worried about COVID measures not to panic

HONG KONG, March 2 (Reuters) – The Hong Kong government said any decision to impose a COVID-19 lockdown would take into account the status of the global financial center and ensure basic needs, and it urged anxious residents who invaded supermarkets this week so don’t panic.

The government said it was still planning and “fine-tuning” a mandatory mass COVID testing program and would announce details when confirmed.

The government “will safeguard Hong Kong’s status as a financial center when implementing the mandatory universal testing (CUT) scheme,” he said.

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“Experience from the implementation of a CUT initiative in other parts of the world shows that the basic needs of citizens such as food, basic necessities and seeking medical care outside their homes must be satisfied.”

Citizens should not “panic, scramble or stockpile necessary supplies”.

The government statement, released late Tuesday, comes amid widespread confusion and chaos, with many residents frustrated by the mixed messages and almost daily adjustments to coronavirus rules.

Leader Carrie Lam previously said a citywide lockdown and mandatory testing were not being considered.

However, Health Secretary Sophia Chan said on Monday a lockdown had not been ruled out, fueling rumors and triggering a rush for groceries, pharmaceuticals and banking services.

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

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

Hospitals and morgues are operating at full capacity as deaths rise.

Authorities have rushed 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 “living with the virus” approach. virus”, relying on high levels of vaccination and mitigation measures such as masks to try to get through their Omicron surges.

The former British colony has reported more than 238,000 coronavirus infections and around 1,000 deaths since the pandemic began in 2020. Around 600 of those deaths occurred in the past week, the majority of people unvaccinated.

Daily reported infections have soared more than 30 times to more than 30,000 since early February, when there were around 100 daily cases.

Health experts from the University of Hong Kong said there were around 1.7 million people already infected on Monday, with a peak of around 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 “badly damaged” and that the government’s confusing messages were creating “widespread panic”.

“I fear that we are causing real damage to Hong Kong society and our economy. There are too many rumors floating around and such a sense of uncertainty,” Zeman said in a letter to Lam.

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

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

“We need a very clear message giving people hope and direction to end this nightmare.”

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

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Reporting by Farah Master; Editing by Michael Perry, Robert Birsel

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