Citizens to undergo 3 rounds of Compulsory Universal Testing in March, social distancing measures maintained till mid-April, summer holidays for schools to be brought forward to early March (Updated: 6.55pm)

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22nd February 2022 – (Hong Kong) The Chief Executive Carrie Lam held a media conference at 6pm today and elaborated on the severity of the COVID-19 epidemic situation in Hong Kong. The government’s aim is to protect the health of all citizens and to minimise deaths by maintaining dynamic Zero Covid policy. Even though Hong Kong has managed to maintain an impressive low number of COVID-19 cases in the past 2 years, the government is still unable to cope with the fifth wave when COVID-19 cases exceeded total number recorded before this round and it has sought the help of mainland experts to assist in the increase of COVID-19 testing capabilities by setting up Huo-Yan laboratories locally and also to help with the fight against the epidemic.

Carrie Lam admitted that the existing isolation facilities are seriously insufficient. It is estimated that 30,000 people who are preliminarily positive or positive are still waiting to be admitted to the hospital. Those who should be quarantined are waiting at home. The government must provide support urgently. She admitted that the turnaround time is not fast enough. With the support of the central government, there are currently more than 5,000 isolation units put in service at Penny’s Bay and more than 1,600 hotel rooms have been put into community quarantine measures. It is expected that within this week, the 5,000 units will double to 10,000 units from 3 unoccupied public housing estates. Furnishings are being provided. An additional 16,000 units will be provided via hotel rooms and Kai Tak Cruise Terminal.

Lam announced that the new social distancing measures will be extended till 20th of April and they won’t be renewed every 2 weeks from now onwards. Only 2 diners will be allowed per table during lunchtime and all exemptions for mask-free outdoor activities will be revoked.

Summer holidays for all public, international schools and kindergarten etc (will be brought forward to early March this year to facilitate anti-epidemic work. School premises will be used for Compulsory Universal Testing (CUT). All face-to-face classes which will end early March will continue to be suspended after beginning of March as the holidays will be brought forward. The holidays will continue until the Easter break on 18th April. It is hoped that all schools will be able to resume after Easter break. Primary schools and International schools will be able to resume after Easter break but high school students will need to wait for other candidates to finish DSE core examinations starting on 22nd April. As for post-secondary institutions, the government will allow them to make their own arrangements.

In short, the academic year for 2022 will end officially on 12th August due to the special arrangement.

Compulsory Universal Testing (CUT) will be launched under Cap 599J within March this year. All citizens need to undergo virus testing 3 times. Testing capabilities will be increased to 1,000,000 times per day by erecting hundreds of testing centres all over Hong Kong to cope with the testing of more than 7 million population in Hong Kong. The testing will be carried out in batches in accordance with the year of birth of citizens’ stipulated in their Identity Cards. All citizens also need to undergo daily rapid antigen test in between CUT. Self-testing packs including KN95 masks will be provided for all citizens in between the 3 rounds of CUT.

Carrie Lam also announced that CUT will be carried out in March. Hence, some normal public services will be suspended, and manpower will be transferred to the front line. The sampling and laboratory testing work is tight, and she has asked the central government for assistance, including samplers and increase in laboratory testing capabilities. Test reports will be issued within 24 hours. It is believed that 100,000 personnel need to help with testing process.

The government hopes to achieve 90% of first-dose vaccination within 2 weeks, the target is to reach 80% for the second dose in March, and the target is to reach 90% vaccination of the total population. 86.4% of the eligible persons have received the first dose so far, and the average daily dose of the vaccine was 85,000 doses by the end of February. The authorities will also consider shortening the original 6-month interval between the second and third injections, which will be announced by the Department of Health shortly.

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