Hong Kong Legislators call for strict measures to contain pandemic

BEIJING, Nov 21 (China Daily/ANN): Pro-establishment lawmakers urged the government to announce resolute pandemic-control measures — such as mandatory comprehensive virus testing — in the upcoming Policy Address, as the city reported at least 66 confirmed and preliminary infections.

Specifically calling for population-wide virus testing, they raised the topic in their Friday-afternoon discussion with Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor about this year’s address, which will be delivered on Wednesday (Nov 25).

“We hope to see more determined and bold pandemic-control measures in the address, which is the only way to revive the economy,” Starry Lee Wai-king, chairwoman of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, told reporters after the meeting.

Martin Liao Cheung-kong, convener of the pro-establishment lawmakers, urged authorities to seriously review current measures and take new initiatives to control the pandemic, given the resurgence of untraceable local cases.

The suggested initiatives include citywide mandatory testing to identify community transmission chains, Liao said.

He cited medical experts who say that if the current situation were to continue, there would be no hope to end the pandemic within a year, and that would be “fatal” to the city’s economy.- Hong Kong added 45 new coronavirus cases Saturday, the highest daily toll in three months, news site HKO1 reported, after the city imposed new social restrictions as it braced for an expected new wave.

Hong Kong reported 26 new infections on Friday night (Nov 20), 21 of which were locally transmitted, with nine from an untraceable source.

The government has also detected over 40 preliminary cases awaiting confirmation, a sign that Friday’s jump is not an anomaly. The surge comes as other parts of Asia, including Japan and South Korea, see alarming flareups as colder weather sets in.

"Hong Kong’s epidemic has shown rapid deterioration and experts have said the fourth wave is inevitable,” Secretary for Food and Health Sophia Chan said in a briefing Friday. "We have done a series of measures to strengthen control, but we still see the situation turning bad.”

The city’s government suspended classes for primary school levels 1 to 3 from Nov. 23 for two weeks, after shutting kindergartens and nurseries a week ago due to outbreaks of upper respiratory tract infection, and the risks of coronavirus resurgence. No students or school staff have tested positive for Covid-19 yet, said officials.

On Saturday, the government also announced new social-distancing measures that would ban live performances in catered premises such as clubs, pubs and nightclubs, and shut all party rooms. The rules take effect at midnight on Sunday (Nov 22).

At a news conference, Secretary for Food and Health Sophia Chan Siu-chee said Hong Kong’s pandemic situation is seeing a “rapid deterioration” and warned about a sweeping fourth wave of local infections.

Given that development, the government announced it will suspend face-to-face classes for Primary One to Primary Three students for two weeks effective Monday. It also extended for two weeks the suspension of kindergarten classes, which was ordered earlier this month after a series of upper respiratory infections.

Mandatory testing will be conducted among three groups — those who have symptoms of COVID-19, workers of elderly homes, and taxi drivers, Chan said. She added that the government will talk with doctor groups on Friday night on issuing a mandatory testing order to people who they think need to receive tests.

In the meeting with Lam, the lawmakers also proposed the government offer more support in the Policy Address to individuals severely affected by the pandemic.

Hong Kong’s unemployment rate in August to October remained unchanged at 6.4 per cent, the highest in 15 years. - China Daily/Asian News Network

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