Chief Executive Carrie Lam on Tuesday said she is very worried about the latest coronavirus outbreak in the city, adding that a decision will be taken soon on whether to extend social distancing measures that are set to expire on June 4.
Speaking ahead of the Executive Council meeting, Lam said health officials are rushing to test residents living in the same building in Sha Tin as some of the latest patients to gauge the extent of the spread of the virus and track down the source of infection.
Four more residents living in the same public housing block as a couple diagnosed over the weekend have also tested positive for the virus, bringing the total number of people linked to the cluster to nine.
“Living in the same building but not affected by the drainage system or building structures is something that gets me very worried,” said Lam.
The Health Secretary, Sophia Chan, said more than 800 samples have been collected from residents for testing.
Lam said the government will take a "cautious and prudent approach" when considering whether to relax social distancing measures and border controls after this latest outbreak.
Asked if people’s freedom to hold assemblies will be restricted for a long time if sporadic cases of Covid-19 keep emerging like this, Lam said public health is part of national security and she believes people are willing to abide by rules that are aimed at protecting them.
“It’s not a matter of taking away people’s freedom. Public health is also part of national security. National security is not just about explosives and rivals. National security includes financial security [and] public health security,” she said.
“When it comes to matters like public security, people will accept [it]. Hong Kong people willingly abide by some of the restrictions in order to protect themselves, their families and society at large.”
A ban on gatherings of more than eight people is due to expire after Thursday, while laws requiring people entering the city to be quarantined for 14 days will expire later this month.
Lam said a decision on whether to extend these measures will be announced “very soon”.