Hong Kong’s government should distribute aid from the central government properly and plan for the next stage of the Covid-19 pandemic in an orderly way, a top Beijing official has told a high-level meeting in Shenzhen on the health crisis facing the financial hub. Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office (HKMAO) director Xia Baolong also emphasised the need for local officials to safeguard social stability, according to the Hong Kong China News Agency. He was chairing the meeting on Wednesday after flying back to Shenzhen from the capital where he attended the annual “two sessions” of the nation’s parliament and top advisory body. Lau Siu-kai, vice-president of semi-official Chinese Association of Hong Kong and Macau Studies think tank, said Beijing believed reforms were needed after the pandemic was under control, such as improving the government’s managerial abilities and the leadership capabilities of the executive branch. It was the ninth meeting of the tripartite coordination task force, involving Hong Kong and mainland officials, and the second in less than a week, with the last one taking place on March 11. Xia said in the latest meeting that the current epidemic situation in the city was still serious and the fight against the virus has remained an uphill battle. During the meeting, he also spoke via video link with teams sent to assist Hong Kong and called on the local government to speed up the distribution of Chinese medicine, boost the occupancy rate of isolation facilities and make good use of the medical professionals sent from the mainland. HKMAO deputy directors Zhang Xiaoming and Huang Liuquan were also among senior mainland officials who attended the meeting. Hong Kong leader’s daily Covid-19 briefings ‘may undermine credibility instead’ Xia went on to instruct the local administration to plan ahead for the next phase of the outbreak, focusing on the strategy of “three reductions, three focuses and one priority”. The first element refers to reducing infections, severe cases and deaths. The second involves three specific areas of focus: boosting vaccinations among the elderly and enforcing closed-loop staffing arrangements in care homes; strengthening the work of clinics, hospitals and isolation facilities; and identifying high-risk premises for children, seniors and the disabled, and stepping up protections there. The final priority, meanwhile, is treating elderly residents. Think tank vice-president Lau said Xia’s remarks not only focused on offering guidance and supervision, but also showed that Beijing would hold Hong Kong’s government accountable for failing to control the epidemic. “Beijing is being patient as the priority now lies with controlling the epidemic, but it also expects a lot of reforms after the fifth wave subsides,” he said. “There is a need for improvement of our health care system and formulating contingency plans within the government on how to deal with such kinds of crisis.” Central authorities would look at improving the local government’s managerial abilities and its executive role, Lau said, adding the city needed to “prepare well for any upcoming sixth or seventh waves”. Lau suggested it was very rare that Beijing had to be so “hands-on” on Hong Kong’s issues, calling it proof that the city government’s poor handling of the outbreak had already greatly affected national interests. Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor officially confirmed on Wednesday that daily caseloads had peaked in early March, but noted the number of deaths remained high. Health officials have said the number of cases peaked on March 2 and 3, at between 76,000 and 77,000 cases per day. For the past week, confirmed infections have been hovering at between 21,000 and 30,000 a day.