The League of Social Democrats (LSD), one of Hong Kong’s few remaining active pro-democracy parties, staged a protest outside the Central Government Office against the city’s “dynamic zero Covid” approach on Tuesday morning.
Chan Po-ying, the chairperson of the group, said Hong Kong has paid a grave price for sticking to the “dynamic zero Covid” strategy, adding that achieving zero infections was not practical.
“Medical experts globally recognise that vaccines cannot prevent infections, but are effective at reducing the severity of symptoms,” Chan read from a statement, adding that Covid-19 outbreaks will not cease completely – especially given the transmissibility of Omicron – even if the inoculation rate increases.
The LSD also said the government’s relief measures were “saving the market instead of saving the people.” While the upcoming phase of the Anti-Epidemic Fund will for the first time provide a HK$10,000 subsidy to unemployed people fulfilling certain criteria and workers in specific sectors, Chan said the amount was not sufficient to ease the financial burden of the poor.
“[The HK$10,000 unemployment subsidy] is a drop in the bucket for the low-income citizens who are suffering, and it is night and day compared to the government’s efforts to save the market,” Chan said.
The LSD also urged the government to omit income and asset screening in the unemployment fund and offer 80 per cent of their usual income to people suffering from unemployment, underemployment, or who are on unpaid leave, instead of the fixed HK$10,000 payout.
The group also demanded that the government provide sufficient information about the city’s Covid-19 situation, including the death rate, data on those suffering from serious symptoms, and statistics on the use of intensive care units and ventilators. This information, the group added, will facilitate public deliberation and “construct an anti-epidemic policy according to the characteristics of Hong Kong.”
Dynamic zero Covid
Hong Kong’s dynamic zero Covid strategy involves measures such as large-scale testing, snap lockdowns, exhaustive contact tracing, isolation, and strict border controls – all designed to bring outbreaks under control.
However, as a fifth wave of infections sweeps the city and threatens to overwhelm the public health system, the approach has inspired debate. Officials, though, remain committed to the strategy. In a statement released on Monday, Chief Executive Carrie Lam thanked mainland authorities for their assistance said the government would “spare no effort” in its pursuit of “dynamic zero infection.”
On Monday, Hong Kong recorded 2,071 new Covid-19 cases, a total that Chuang Shuk-kwan of the Centre for Health Protection (CHP) warned did not fully represent the number of infections because of testing laboratory backlog. During Monday’s Covid-19 press briefing, Chuang said there were about 4,500 preliminary positive cases.
As of Monday, the city has reported 25,051 Covid-19 cases and 223 deaths.
Additional reporting by Mercedes Hutton.