Compulsory Universal Testing (CUT), wherein all Hong Kong citizens will undergo three Covid-19 nucleic acid tests, will begin in March, Chief Executive Carrie Lam announced in a press conference Tuesday evening. One million tests will be conducted per day, and citywide testing will be completed one week at a time.

The goal is to quickly identify and isolate asymptomatic cases that are currently staying under the radar in the community, as the government sticks to its dynamic zero infection strategy in the face of a fifth wave spurred by the infectious Omicron variant.

The testing order will be determined by citizens’ year of birth. In between their appointments at government testing centres, testees will be given rapid antigen test kits to conduct self-tests every day until their next nucleic acid test.

citizens line up for community testing in sha tin
Queue outside Sha Tin community testing centre in February 2022 (© Sun8908 via Wikicommons, CC BY-SA 3.0)

While announcing the plan, Lam stressed the importance of immunizing as much of the population as possible, especially children over 3 and the elderly.

Schools and scheduled premises closed until April

The CE also announced that summer holiday for kindergartens, primary schools, and secondary schools will be moved earlier from July-August to March-April 17. This will free up schools to be used for activities such as testing, isolation, and vaccination. The CE hopes that after universal testing has been completed, students can safely go back to school after the new summer holiday period ends.

Also, anti-pandemic measures will no longer be reviewed and updated biweekly; the existing social distancing rules will remain in place until April. For example, the following rules will all remain the same until April 20: the closure of “scheduled premises” including fitness centres, pools, cruise ships, movie theatres, and hair salons and the flight ban on Australia, Canada, France, India, Nepal, Pakistan, the Philippines, UK, and USA.

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The shortage in isolation facilities has kept an estimated 30,000 positive or preliminary positive cases waiting at home for admission to hospitals or community isolation facilities. Penny’s Bay and Kai Tai Cruise Terminal isolation facilities will be expanded, and 10,000 new isolation units will be opened in the coming months with the help of mainland China.

Header image credits: Studio Incendo via Flickr

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Born in Canada, Danielle is deep diving into the things that make Hong Kong a city of intermingling identities, and bridging the information gap as someone trying to navigate the city herself as a cultural inbetweener. Sometimes this means examining culture and local people’s stories, and other times it means drinking all the milk tea and doing walking explorations of peripheral districts.

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