Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam urges opposition to get behind Covid-19 tests, which she says can help kick start city’s economy
- Chief executive urges those who have spoken out against scheme to stop using it to play politics
- Tests will help government feel safer when making decisions on social-distancing measures, Lam says
More than 100 booths are to be set up across the city’s 18 districts, with around 3,000 medical professionals helping carrying out the tests.
Hong Kong’s mass Covid-19 testing to begin on September 1, to last at least 7 days
Even though the government’s medical advisers supported the scheme, some have remained sceptical, disputing its effectiveness.
On Monday, Dr Ho Pak-leung, a University of Hong Kong microbiologist, and Dr Leung Chi-chiu, a respiratory medicine specialist, publicly said they would not be getting tested.
Speaking at a regular press briefing ahead of her weekly Executive Council meeting, Lam urged those that disagreed with her to do so more responsibly.
“I will make a strong plea, that well-known people, especially in the relevant professional areas, should really express their view in a more responsible way, since this is about public health, let’s focus on public health,” she said.
Opposition lawmakers and activists have suggested the city’s government was only running the testing to please Beijing officials, who have been eager to help Hong Kong beat its third wave of infections.
With 19 new cases on Tuesday, the city’s total number of confirmed infections rose to 4,710, with 77 related deaths.
Lam also took issue with those who have openly said they would not be tested.
“Why would some people refuse to do the test?” she asked. “This question should not be answered by me. It should be answered by those who smear the scheme since it was launched, and by those so-called experts and doctors who ask the public not to join by using excuses.
“There’s only one reason. It’s because of political consideration and calculations – to find another issue to smear the central government.”
She said testing was recognised globally as a good means of identifying early confirmed cases so they could be isolated for treatment, adding that universal testing would not reduce testing capacity for other priority groups.
The chief executive said among the 390,000 tests performed on high-risk groups by government and private laboratories, there was a 0.02 per cent infection rate, meaning two out of every 10,000 people were found to be infected.
In postponing the elections, Lam had pointed to the dangers posed by crowding at polling stations. She said the testing was different in that it would be held over 14 days, rather than one day, and that there would be an online registration system to reduce queues.
Additional reporting by Jack Lau