The Hong Kong government’s Compulsory Universal Testing (CUT) exercise in which the entire population of the SAR will be screened for Covid-19 will reportedly be postponed. This development is based on Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor’s statement at a press conference on March 9 that the CUT is “no longer a priority” as the city shifts its focus to mitigating its Covid-19 mortality rate, which is now among the highest in the world.
Previous reports stated that the CUT would take place after schools closed for their early summer break on March 7 or at the end of the month. Lam did not confirm dates for the CUT at the conference, but did mention that any lockdown that occurred in tandem with citywide testing would be along the lines of the Singapore, UK, or Melbourne models in which people would be able to leave their homes for essentials.
Hair salons and barbershops reopen
Hair salons and barber shops, which have been closed since February 10, will reopen today, March 10, under the vaccine pass arrangement. This means that all staff and customers who enter these premises must be vaccinated at least once against Covid-19, check in with the LeaveHomeSafe app, and wear a mask at all times.
Emergency alert about Queen Elizabeth Hospital
The government also announced yesterday that Queen Elizabeth Hospital will become a Covid-only facility, sending an emergency alert to the public via a HK$150 million alert system established in 2020 about this development. The alert caused alarm among many Hongkongers and many took to social media to voice their concerns about it.
When asked why the government chose to send the information in this manner, Lam said at a press conference on Thursday morning that it is “because Queen Elizabeth Hospital is the leading hospital in the Kowloon Central Cluster. It has the busiest A&E department in the seven hospital clusters,” and that members of the public who may go there for non-Covid ailments should be informed that they should go to other hospitals.
Hong Kong exodus
Meanwhile, the number of people leaving Hong Kong continues to increase amid concerns over the CUT, parents’ fears of being separated from their Covid-positive children, and stringent social distancing restrictions. According to data from the Hong Kong Immigration Department, from March 1 to 9 this year, there were 33,218 outbound travellers from the SAR – 87.63% of which were local residents. In February 2022, there was a net outflow of more than 71,000 people from the city.
Header image credits: VOA Chinese