Hong Kong rules out Covid lockdown, secures China’s help

Beijing, Feb 13 (EFE).- Hong Kong authorities are for now ruling out a large-scale lockdown of the city and have received an assurance of help by authorities from mainland China as the region tries to contain the latest Covid-19 wave.

Several Hong Kong officials met their Chinese counterparts in Shenzhen, southern China, to discuss strategies to tackle the coronavirus wave, which has led to more than 5,000 infections being registered over the past week.

Authorities said recently that Hong Kong was following the same “zero tolerance” policy against Covid as the one enforced by Beijing, which includes drastic measures such as targeted lockdowns, mass testing drives and the closure of borders.

Hong Kong Chief Secretary John Lee told reporters after meeting the Chinese officials that mainland China would help the former British colony increase its testing capacity, build quarantine facilities and provide medical supplies, food and necessities, state broadcaster RTHK reported late on Saturday.

When asked if the city would impose a mass lockdown on its 7.8 million residents, Lee said that this was not being considered for now.

“We don’t have this (lockdown) plan, because we believe that the enhanced measures that we have introduced will take effect,” he said.

The recent spread of the Omicron variant has led to fresh restrictions in the city that even cover private dwellings.

Masks have been made mandatory outdoors, as is taking a test in designated places if required by health authorities. Those not complying with the measures could be fined up to HK$10,000 (around $1,300), instead of the earlier maximum fine of HK$5,000.

A vaccine passport is also set to be imposed by the end of this month, which will prevent non-vaccinated people from entering shopping malls, supermarkets, large stores and beauty salons, among other places. So far around 73 percent of the population has received two doses.

Five Covid deaths were registered in Hong Kong over the past week, the first in more than six months, while hundreds of residents have been tested to try and detect the sources of infection and prevent a large-scale spread of the Omicron variant, which is more infectious than its predecessors. EFE


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