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Hong Kong’s new chief executive sees no need for mass COVID-19 testing right now

A health care worker collects a swab sample at a COVID-19 testing station outside a residential building placed under lockdown in Hong Kong on March 1, 2022.Lam Yik/Bloomberg

(Bloomberg) — Hong Kong’s new Chief Executive John Lee said there is no immediate need for a universal compulsory COVID-19 testing campaign in the city but stressed that there needs to be a reduction in the number of daily infections, which are at the highest level since April.

Lee, appearing on a program broadcast by TVB on Sunday, shed more light on his COVID-19 agenda for the first time since being sworn in as chief executive on Friday by Chinese President Xi Jinping, who was also in the city to celebrate the 25th anniversary of its return to Chinese rule.

Hong Kong should carry out more laboratory nucleic acid testing for COVID-19 because it’s a reliable way to detect infections, but this would not expand into a universal compulsory testing campaign for now, Lee said. The chief executive acknowledged the need to reduce transmissions but didn’t specify whether the goal would be to reach “Covid Zero”, the approach taken by mainland China, which deploys mass testing campaigns and lockdowns to stamp out infections.

“It may not be necessary,” Lee said. “What’s the goal of compulsory universal testing? It’s usually at the start of an outbreak or at the end.”

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Lee said his administration was working with Chinese officials to introduce quarantine-free travel for people coming from Hong Kong to the mainland. Local media previously reported that Lee was considering proposing a closed-loop system to allow quarantine-free travel for business people.

The chief executive also said quarantine requirements for international arrivals to Hong Kong could be adjusted to reduce inconveniences.

The city on Sunday reported a total of 1,828 new COVID-19 cases, 147 of them imported. Health authorities said at a briefing that there were no new virus-related deaths. One patient was in a critical condition and three were serious, they said.

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