Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam (林鄭月娥) yesterday said there are no plans to further tighten strict social distancing measures as authorities battle to contain a deepening COVID-19 outbreak that has overwhelmed its health system and caused virus-related deaths to soar.
Lam said there was limited room to tighten further, with the global financial hub having implemented its strictest measures since its COVID-19 strategy began in 2020. Gatherings of more than two people are banned, most venues are shut — including schools — and masks are compulsory everywhere, even when exercising outdoors.
“The government has to be very careful before tightening social distancing measures further … with the need to consider the mental health of citizens,” she said at a daily media briefing.
Lam said last week that the territorial government had no time frame for a potential compulsory mass testing of Hong Kong’s 7.4 million residents.
Hong Kong has reported more than 700,000 infections and about 4,000 deaths, most of them in the past three weeks. The former British colony has followed mainland China’s “dynamic zero” strategy, which seeks to curb all outbreaks as soon as they occur.
The Chinese-ruled territory has had its borders effectively sealed for two years with few flights able to land, and most transit passengers banned.
However, deaths have spiked, particularly among its mostly unvaccinated elderly, with Hong Kong registering the most deaths per million people globally in the week to March 10, the online scientific publication Our World in Data said.
Lam’s comments came after China reported a surge in new local cases on Sunday, more than triple the previous day’s caseload, and the highest in about two years.
Some mainland Chinese social media users expressed anger at Hong Kong, saying it has failed to control its COVID-19 outbreak, and blamed the hub for causing the country’s latest spike in infections.
“Shenzhen people have been scolding Hong Kong every day for the past month. It’s very clear that it has caused so much trouble for others,” one person wrote.
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