Carrie Lam urges calm, pledges stepped-up Covid-19 testing as HK expects more than 60 new cases

20-Jan-2021 Intellasia | South China Morning Post | 6:02 AM Print This Post

Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor has appealed for calm a day after the city’s Covid-19 caseload surged back into triple digits, vowing to step up compulsory testing in virus-hit districts.

The city was expected to record more than 60 cases on Tuesday, according to a medical source.

Workers check the sewage of an old tenement building as part of an effort to track the spread of the coronavirus in Jordan, Hong Kong. Photo: EPA-EFE

Workers check the sewage of an old tenement building as part of an effort to track the spread of the coronavirus in Jordan, Hong Kong. Photo: EPA-EFE

Lam also addressed concerns that members of ethnic minority communities caught up in an escalating outbreak among old tenement buildings in Yau Tsim Mong district were being unfairly targeted.

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“I really appeal to all of you, this is not an occasion to apportion blame,” she said.

“There is absolutely no suggestion of the spread of disease relating to race or ethnicity. If there is any misunderstanding arising from any remarks made by any officials, I made it absolutely clear here.”

The chief executive was speaking after a senior official from the Centre for Health protection on Monday said members of the ethnic minority groups, many of them living in subdivided flats in crowded neighbourhoods, were engaging in “behaviour that put them at risk”.

Speaking ahead of her weekly Executive Council meeting, Lam on Tuesday said social behaviour, living conditions and workplace hygiene were all important factors that could make certain people more vulnerable to the virus.

“But that has nothing to do with ethnicity,” she stressed.

She also said the current set of social-distancing measures set to expire on Thursday which include a ban on dine-in services after 6pm would be extended in light of the pandemic situation.

Officials confirmed 107 cases citywide on Monday the highest since 109 infections were recorded on December 19 and reported that 28 of them were found via testing in Yau Tsim Mong district, home to a recent outbreak.

“I understand people might find the recording of more than 100 cases worrying,” Lam said. “But the spike could have been triggered by the strengthening of compulsory testing.”

Noting that 55 of Monday’s cases had been recorded at testing centres, she said there was no reason to panic.

In a bid to contain the virus’ spread, Lam said the government would announce new measures on Tuesday afternoon that would extend the screening order to all tenants living in what the government had termed the “core zone” in Yau Ma Tei and Jordan, whether or not any positive cases had been found in their buildings.

A small neighbourhood in Sham Shui Po would also be identified as one in which residents would have to be tested if a single case was found in any building, Lam said.

Residents of housing blocks in which the coronavirus had been identified in their sewage for three days in a row would also have to be screened, she added.

Meanwhile, Lam warned that new unemployment figures due on Tuesday afternoon would be grim, but reiterated the government had no plans to extend the employment support scheme, given the toll placed on city coffers already under previous relief measures.

“I can foresee the unemployment [numbers] this afternoon will be bad, because the [employment support scheme] which safeguarded employment expired towards the end of November,” she said. “One would expect to see more job losses.”



Category: Hong Kong

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