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Hong Kong prepares for citywide lockdown, Lam urges public to be calm

A customer wearing a mask buys fresh meat at a supermarket ahead of mass coronavirus disease (COVID-19) testing in Hong Kong, China March 1, 2022. REUTERS/Tyrone Siu

On Tuesday, residents of Hong Kong prepared for a city-wide lockdown by emptying supermarkets and pharmacies, even as leader Carrie Lam pleaded for calm and said the public should not be concerned about a mandatory mass COVID-19 testing plan.

The news: The South China Morning Post (SCMP) said, citing an unidentified source, that mass testing for the city’s 7.4 million citizens will take place over nine days beginning in the second part of March.

A customer wearing a mask shops in front of partially empty shelves at a supermarket during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Hong Kong, China February 28, 2022. REUTERS/Tyrone Siu
  • The discovery raised fears that many people would be forced to isolate themselves, and that families with members who tested positive would be split up.
  • Officials aim to test people three times over the course of nine days, with the government still debating whether a lockdown should be implemented on a district or citywide basis, according to the SCMP.
  • Those who purchase food, seek medical treatment, and maintain societal activities would be exempt. According to the Sing Tao tabloid, which cited unnamed sources, Hong Kong’s stock market would continue to operate.
Customers wearing masks shop in front of partially empty shelves at a supermarket during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Hong Kong, China February 28, 2022. REUTERS/Tyrone Siu

What Lam said: Lam earlier stated that a city-wide shutdown was not being considered.

  • On Tuesday, she urged people “not to fall prey to rumours to avoid unnecessary fears being stirred,” claiming that food and goods supplies were normal.
  • “There is no need for members of the public to worry, they should stay vigilant and pay attention to the information disseminated by the government so as to avoid being misled by rumours,” Lam said in a statement.
  • Despite her remarks, scores of people lined up at pharmacies and banks across the city, and many others combed bare grocery store shelves for any necessities they could find.
A customer shops in front of partially empty shelves at a supermarket during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Hong Kong, China February 28, 2022. REUTERS/Tyrone Siu

What’s going on: In what would normally be a busy lunchtime period, the streets and shopping malls in the city’s Central business area were eerily silent.

  • Coronavirus infections in the Chinese-ruled city increased by 34 times to over 34,000 on Monday, up from just over 100 at the start of February. Deaths are also on the rise, with hospitals and public mortuaries reaching maximum capacity for holding bodies.
  • Hong Kong, like mainland China, continues to follow a COVID policy of “dynamic zero,” which aims to prevent all outbreaks at all costs. Since the beginning of the epidemic in 2020, the Chinese-controlled territory has taken the most severe measures.
  • Many families have fled ahead of the mass testing scheme and the construction of tens of thousands of isolation centres as a result of the restrictions, which have intensified separation anxieties.
  • Over 205,000 coronavirus illnesses and 744 deaths have been reported in the former British colony, with over 400 deaths in the last week, the majority of whom were unvaccinated locals.
  • Lam claimed the crew had rushed against the clock to “produce a miracle” in the city’s construction industry, as she inspected a mainland Chinese-built isolation centre on Monday.
  • Tsing Yi facility, which is located in the city’s northwest, would have roughly 3,900 rooms for infected persons who have minimal or no symptoms, as well as others who need to isolate.
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