Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam has urged citizens to “calm down” after reports of an impending lockdown sparked panic buying across the city. Lam added that the government was still “seriously assessing” whether to impose a citywide lockdown during the city’s Covid-19 compulsory testing.

Carrie Lam
Chief Executive Carrie Lam meeting the press at Shenzhen Bay Port on February 28, 2022. Photo: GovHK, via video screenshot.

Lam’s comments on Monday night came amid reports of supermarket shelves being cleared following Secretary for Food and Health Sophia Chan saying earlier in the day on Commercial Radio that a citywide lockdown was “under discussion.”

panic buying hong kong
Marks and Spencer in Central on Tuesday. Photo: Tom Grundy/HKFP.

Speaking at the Shenzhen Bay Port, where she greeted a mainland Covid-19 strategy expert, the chief executive said that the administration still had to assess the “extent of the so-called limiting citizens from going out.”

Wellcome Kennedy Town
Near-empty shelves previously with toilet rolls and rice in a supermarket in Kennedy Town on March 1, 2022. Photo: Candice Chau/HKFP.

“I noticed that there are a lot of rumours on the internet. The SAR government will definitely clarify at the first possible instance,” Lam said. “For example, some said that the Legislative Council will vote [on imposing lockdown], and some said that we won’t have fresh food or vegetables in the city. These are all rumours,” she added.

Lam also said that instead of testing citizens in batches sorted by their identity card numbers, the government might consider asking people to test in family units instead.

panic buying hong kong
Marks and Spencer in Central on Tuesday. Photo: Tom Grundy/HKFP.

“In fact, from the perspective of public health, it seems that the rate of household transmission is very high, and therefore if that’s the case, people living under the same roof actually have a high infection risk,” Lam said.

Wellcome Kennedy Town
Near-empty shelves previously with meat and fresh food in a supermarket in Kennedy Town on March 1, 2022. Photo: Candice Chau/HKFP.

“Allowing the whole household under the same roof to test together is better than sorting them according to different years of birth and having out go out separately for multiple times,” Lam said.

Business suspensions

Hong Kong drug store chain Mannings announced on Monday that 53 of its branches will close from Tuesday onwards in order to “protect the health of colleagues, customers, and work partners.”

Mannings became the latest chain to announce the closure of branches citing the Covid-19 pandemic. Several other food and beverages chain have also limited or completely suspended services in recent days.

Restaurant Covid-19
A closed restaurant on Lamma Island. Photo: Tom Grundy/HKFP.

LH Group, which owns eight restaurant brands including Peace Cuisine and Gyu-Kaku, suspended operations in all its branches from Tuesday onwards. Chairperson and CEO of the group Simon Wong said in a Facebook post last Saturday that the decision was made as “the business environment has worsened to the point that it was impossible to operate.”

Café de Coral announced last Sunday that from Tuesday onwards, most of its branches will only provide takeaway services. Tao Heung Holdings Limited announced on Monday that all its branches will suspend operations from Tuesday until further notice.

Hong Kong has recorded 205,780 infections and 841 deaths since the beginning of the pandemic over two years ago.

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Candice is a reporter at Hong Kong Free Press. She previously worked as a researcher at a local think tank. She has a BSocSc in Politics and International Relations from the University of Manchester and a MSc in International Political Economy from London School of Economics.