The densely populated metropolis is within the throes of a document virus surge with hundreds of confirmed instances each day threatening to overwhelm hospitals and town’s strict isolation system.
On Tuesday, Chief Govt Carrie Lam revealed a doubling down of town authorities’s zero-Covid strategy to carry the response a lot nearer to mainland China’s as she admitted native authorities had did not stamp out the present surge.
“This rapidly worsening epidemic has far exceeded the Hong Kong authorities’s skill to deal with it, so there’s nice want for the central authorities’s help in combating the virus,” she instructed reporters.
Xia Baolong, Beijing’s Hong Kong and Macau affairs chief, was coordinating the mainland’s response from the border metropolis of Shenzhen, she added.
Underneath the brand new guidelines, all 7.4 million residents must undergo three rounds of obligatory testing in March, though Lam didn’t give a begin date.
The exams might be unfold out over various days with residents additionally having to take a number of speedy antigen exams each day at residence in between.
“Those that don’t take the common check might be held liable,” Lam warned, including that there was no assure the steps would totally stamp out the present outbreak.
Colleges and a number of companies comparable to gyms, bars and sweetness salons will stay closed into late April with training services become native testing facilities.
Flights from 9 international locations together with Britain and the US will stay banned.
Lam additionally confirmed that Hong Kong would proceed attempting to isolate all coronavirus sufferers, together with asymptomatic sufferers, in short-term services that are being constructed with the assistance of mainland authorities.
“We reiterate that isolation remains to be our coverage goal,” she mentioned.
Hong Kong’s strict, China-style zero-Covid coverage efficiently stored the virus principally at bay the final two years on the expense of marooning town internationally.
However when the extremely contagious Omicron variant ultimately broke by way of earlier this 12 months, authorities had been caught flat-footed with few preparations in place and a dangerously under-vaccinated inhabitants.
Hospital wards had been overwhelmed, testing capability limits had been rapidly reached and there was a large shortfall in isolation models.
As many rival cities reopened, many public well being consultants and enterprise leaders argued that Hong Kong ought to transfer to a mitigation technique that deliberate for residing with the coronavirus.
However China, the one main economic system nonetheless sticking with zero-Covid, made clear final week that was not an choice.
Throughout the pandemic’s early levels, Beijing used citywide lockdowns and mass testing to stamp out instances. However it has by no means managed to deal with an outbreak the scale of the one dealing with Hong Kong, even in Wuhan the place the coronavirus first emerged.
Lam mentioned that, with mainland assist, Hong Kong anticipated to spice up every day testing capability to 1 million a day.
Tens of hundreds of isolation models and therapy beds could be constructed within the coming weeks, she added.
However instances in Hong Kong proceed to rise exponentially, and it’s not clear whether or not sufficient models might be out there when extra instances are found throughout mass testing.
Earlier than the present wave hit in late December, Hong Kong had recorded simply 12,000 infections and a few 200 deaths.
Within the present outbreak it has seen 54,000 instances and 145 deaths.
A brand new mannequin from the College of Hong Kong estimated that the present outbreak will peak in March with some 180,000 every day infections and almost 100 deaths per day.
Regardless of ample provides, Hong Kong has poor vaccination charges among the many aged.
Solely 43 % of individuals aged 80 or over have obtained even one dose.
On Tuesday well being officers revealed that, of 102 latest deaths within the present wave, solely seven had two doses of a vaccine, whereas 63 had been from care properties for the aged.