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Hong Kong orders mandatory COVID-19 tests for all residents

Residents line up to get tested for the coronavirus at a temporary testing center despite the rain in Hong Kong, Tuesday, Feb. 22, 2022. Hong Kong will test its entire population for COVID-19 in March, the city’s leader said Tuesday, as the city grapples with its worst outbreak driven by the Omicron variant.Kin Cheung/Associated Press

HONG KONG (AP) — Hong Kong will test its entire population for COVID-19 in March, the city’s leader said Tuesday, as the city grapples with its worst outbreak driven by the omicron variant.

The population will be tested three times in March, Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam said in a news conference Tuesday.

Lam said that testing capacity will be boosted to 1 million a day or more.

“Since we have a population of some 7 million people, testing will take about seven days,” she said.

Hong Kong has reported about 5,000 new daily infections since Feb. 15, with the number threatening to overwhelm its healthcare system. Since the surge began at the beginning of the year, the city has recorded nearly 54,000 cases and 145 deaths.

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The order for citywide testing comes after mainland Chinese authorities dispatched health workers and medical resources last week to help contain the outbreak in the semi-autonomous Chinese city.