Hong Kong’s daily coronavirus infection toll has fallen below 100 for the first time in 12 days, as the city recorded 80 confirmed cases on Monday. Meanwhile, the government refuted concerns over a team of Chinese experts who came to the city a day ago to help local authorities carry out widespread testing in response to the third wave of Covid-19.
The Centre for Health Protection (CHP) said 64 new patients had links to previous local cases, but the source of 24 infections was unknown. The city’s total number of confirmed cases now stands at 3,591, as death toll rose to 37 after two coronavirus patients passed away on Monday.
In a bid to halt the recent resurgence in local infections, the government announced it will extend its most stringent round of anti-epidemic measures yet to next Tuesday, including mandatory mask-wearing and limiting public gathering to two persons.
Chief Executive Carrie Lam has also sought assistance from Beijing to help with enhancing the city’s testing capability and building a makeshift hospital at the AsiaWorld-Expo.
Secretary for Food and Health Sophia Chan and Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Erick Tsang welcomed seven Chinese health personnel with bouquets on Sunday. They formed part of the 60-person “mainland nucleic acid test support team,” founded by the National Heath Commission.
The government said the mainland experts would begin helping with the preparation of a temporary laboratory to allow the government to extend the scope of its community Covid-19 testing. The city’s leader also held a meeting on Saturday to discuss how to launch a city-wide virus testing scheme.
Nine pro-democracy district councillors from the Neo Democrats staged a brief protest outside the Hospital Authority’s headquarters on Sunday in opposition to the government’s move to invite mainland officials to provide assistance to the local anti-epidemic effort.
According to local media, Tsuen Wan District Councillor Roy Tam questioned whether the Chinese personnel would be exempt from the 14-day mandatory quarantine. He also urged the government to explain how they would protect personal data privacy, as he claimed the authorities will obtain citizens’ DNA during the Covid-19 tests.
Gary Fan of the Sai Kung District Council slammed the arrangement as “unacceptable” and a “rash decision,” saying that Hongkongers had a deep mistrust in the local and central governments.
“This move by Carrie Lam’s administration is a decision commanded by politics,” Fan said.
In a statement issued on Sunday, the government hit out at those who claimed the government would transport DNA data to the mainland as spreading “unfounded” rumours. The government said the virus testing would only be carried out in Hong Kong, and the samples would not be sent to China for testing: “Regarding some people deliberately spreading false rumours, attacking the anti-epidemic work of the Government, the Government condemned such acts,” the statement read.
The government added that individuals who spread such speculation could be seen as breaching the law: “As to whether spreading untrue claims intentionally by certain individuals would constitute criminal offence, the relevant Government departments will study the matter carefully and collect evidences for follow-up.”