We have not given up on universal testing: CE - RTHK
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We have not given up on universal testing: CE

2022-03-28 HKT 13:13
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  • We have not given up on universal testing: CE
Chief Executive Carrie Lam said on Monday that the government has not “given up” on carrying out a universal Covid testing exercise.

“Whatever we do now, we also bear in mind that we have this exercise in mind. We have not given up doing a universal test. But the timing of doing it is very, very significant,” Lam said during her daily press briefing on the pandemic.

“It is a mammoth exercise. We need to mobilise thousands of staff. And we need to inconvenience hundreds of thousands of residents. So we must find the best timing that will achieve the best result before we launch a comprehensive universal test.”

Lam said universal testing is an effective tool to eliminate silent transmissions and would help Hong Kong resume social and economic activities, as well as providing a basis for the city to bargain for the resumption of quarantine-free travel with the mainland.

The CE added that learning from the experience of lockdown operations can help the government prepare for future universal testing.

She said currently people who have been infected with Covid in the last three months are exempt from compulsory testing during lockdowns and the same exemption would apply during universal testing.

“This rule is based on public health. It is not based on convenience or resource considerations. So the same rule will apply for very good reason,” she said.

But the CE did not provide a timetable for holding such a testing exercise.

“I don’t have a timetable yet. It’s not easy to predetermine a timetable in the same way that I don’t know how quickly cases will come down,” she said, adding that more time is needed to monitor the situation before determining when to conduct the mass testing.

Meanwhile, Lam said the total number of infected people in the city should be “far more” than the over a million cases recorded by the government, meaning that the current death rate reported by the authorities may be an overestimate.

She also noted that the infection rates of people subject to lockdown operations fell over the past week, citing a recent lockdown which found only two cases out of some 500 residents.

Lam said during some 280 lockdowns the government conducted in the fifth wave of infections, around 2,800 residents did not comply with the compulsory testing orders, accounting for 3.5 percent of those who were required to take tests.

Meanwhile, Director of Health Ronald Lam said the government has increased the number of spaces for storing bodies at mortuaries from 1,350 to 4,600, to cope with an increased need for places due to the fifth wave of infections.

He said the government has also streamlined procedures to allow relatives of the deceased to claim bodies as soon as possible.