Govt officials eye universal virus testing to help HK return to normal

Policemen standing guard as a van carrying workers arrives at a sports complex in Hong Kong, that will be used as a coronavirus testing centre during a city-wide programme starting on Sept 1. The HK govt is planning to give free coronavirus tests to all residents. - AFP

HONG KONG, Aug 30 (Xinhua): Officials of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) government called on residents to actively participate in the upcoming universal community testing of Covid-19 and expected the testing will help Hong Kong return normal at an early date.

The more people participate in the testing, the faster will Hong Kong contain the epidemic, Chief Secretary for Administration Matthew Cheung said Sunday in an online article.

Cheung said the testing program is aimed at screening asymptomatic patients and cutting the transmission chains of the virus as soon as possible.

The massive testing due to start on Tuesday will be launched for free and on a voluntary basis, and the government has reiterated the personal data of participants will be well protected.

At this stage, more than 400,000 residents have registered for the testing.

Financial Secretary of the HKSAR government Paul Chan also appealed to businesses and commerce chambers to encourage their employees to take the coronavirus tests in his online blog on Sunday.

Only after the invisible transmission chains are stopped, the HKSAR government will be able to focus on reviving the economy and helping improve people's incomes, as well as resuming normal travels of Hong Kong residents to the mainland and Macao, Chan said.

In the face of the Covid-19 challenges, economic stimulus and relief measures of the HKSAR government has boosted the deficit by nearly 290 billion Hong Kong dollars (US$37.41 billion) and the fiscal reserves have dropped to about 800 billion Hong Kong dollars.

Chan said the deficit increase is unsustainable and the HKSAR government has to save energy for economic and financial uncertainties ahead, as well as possible another round of epidemic outbreak in the future.

Hong Kong's Center for Health Protection reported 15 new cases on Sunday, bringing the total confirmed cases to 4,801.

To date, Covid-19 has caused 88 deaths in Hong Kong, and 351 patients are still hospitalised. - Xinhua
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