There will not be a “wholesale” city lockdown in Hong Kong, Chief Executive Carrie Lam said on Wednesday, as the city prepared for Covid-19 compulsory testing in an attempt to curb the fifth wave of infections.

“We all know that some places implemented a citywide ‘curfew’ or ‘lockdown’ where there was no coming in or out – Hong Kong will definitely not implement this,” said Lam when she met the press in Lo Wu.

Chief Executive Carrie Lam meeting the press in Lo Wu on March 2, 2022. Photo: GovHK, via video screenshot.

Lam’s comments came after the government announced plans to impose a compulsory testing scheme across the city in March to help detect cases of the more infectious Omicron variant.

While the government plans to build eight more community isolation facilities with assistance from the Central government, Lam said that realistically it would be “impossible” to move all Covid-19 patients from their homes to quarantine units.

See also: Why some Hongkongers are keeping their Covid infection from the gov’t

A pharmacy in Hong Kong on Tuesday, March 2. Photo: Kyle Lam/HKFP.

“We need to be realistic even when fighting the pandemic, we cannot chase after a scenario that cannot happen in real life, facing tens of thousands of cases every day – it is impossible to move everyone from their homes and put them in isolation facilities. That’s why we have to keep on adjusting policies when facing the situation,” said Lam.

‘Be alert’

For the second consecutive day, the chief executive again urged citizens not to “believe in rumours” and panic buy daily necessities. She said that supplies were sufficient.

A near-empty shelf in a supermarket in Kennedy Town on March 1, 2022. Photo: Candice Chau/HKFP.

“The SAR government will try its best in every stage of work, and will send out accurate messages,” said Lam.

“However, there are still some rumours and audio recordings spreading misinformation on the internet and social media. That’s why during these times, all citizens in Hong Kong have to be alert, and at the same time deal with the pandemic in the calmest mindset.”

A shopping mall “LeaveHomeSafe” QR in Hong Kong on Tuesday, March 2. Photo: Kyle Lam/HKFP.

Despite government officials leaking details to the press, and multiple U-turns in policy, the authorities blamed “rumours spread by individuals with ulterior motives” in a Tuesday press release for the chaos in the supermarket aisles.

People across the city began clearing out shelves in supermarkets on Monday after Secretary for Food and Health Sophia Chan said that a citywide lockdown was “under discussion” in a Commercial Radio segment earlier in the day.

The exact arrangements of the upcoming compulsory testing, including the start date, duration, and the extent to which people’s mobility will be limited, are still under discussion.

Since the fifth wave of pandemic broke out in Hong Kong last December, the city has seen an exponential surge in cases. To date, Hong Kong has recorded 293,730 infections and 1,172 deaths since the beginning of the pandemic over two years ago.

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Candice Chau

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.