Authorities will reportedly deploy riot police to assist in the city’s upcoming mass Covid-19 testing as Hong Kong continues to battle a growing outbreak.

Local media said over the weekend that at least 4,000 riot police will escort virus patients to the hospital or community isolation facilities and enforce building lockdowns.

Tsing Yi Covid-19 quarantine facility. Photo: Kyle Lam/HKFP.

The police force will mobilise riot police – who will don full protective gear – to form Regional Response Contingents, according to HK01. The units are ordinarily deployed to public disorder situations.

The Police Public Relations Branch did not confirm the reports with HKFP on Sunday, but said that the force would continue to “actively support the government” in fighting the Covid-19 outbreak.

Riot police in Mong Kok. Photo: Tom Grundy.

With daily infections well into the tens of thousands, Hong Kong is gearing up for mass Covid-19 testing that will reportedly see the population tested three times over nine days.

A number of health experts, as well as Liang Wannian, who is leading the delegation of mainland Chinese anti-epidemic teams in Hong Kong, have questioned the effectiveness of holding a citywide testing scheme just as infections are expected to peak.

Security Bureau to take charge

Reports that riot police will be on the frontlines of the upcoming mass testing effort comes as health authorities said on Sunday that the Security Bureau – which oversees the police force – will be in charge of admitting Covid-19 patients to community isolation facilities.

“As for arranging confirmed patients to be admitted to the community isolation facilities… our current arrangement when receiving new cases is that we will screen them and select those who meet the criteria for being admitted,” Albert Au of the Centre for Health Protection said during a daily Covid-19 briefing.

Albert Au. Photo: Video screenshot, via RTHK.

“We will give the name list to the Security Bureau and the Fire Services Department to arrange for the admission of these patients,” he added.

As the mass testing dates near, the city is building at least nine Covid-19 facilities with the help of mainland Chinese anti-epidemic teams to take in confirmed patients. The first one to be built, in Tsing Yi, began admitting patients on Tuesday. It will cater to those with mild cases of the coronavirus and who do not have medical needs.

Photo: GovHK.

Frontline medics have criticised the government’s dynamic zero-Covid approach, which entails isolating patients who are asymptomatic or have minimal symptoms. They argue that the policy adds further pressure on already overstretched medical systems, and that resources should be concentrated on treating the elderly and other vulnerable groups.

Tsing Yi Covid-19 quarantine facility. Photo: Kyle Lam/HKFP.

Last Monday, when HKFP asked the Hospital Authority what the admission criteria for these new facilities would be, it said that the questions should be directed to the “relevant government departments.” It did not say which departments those would be. The Department of Health referred HKFP back to the Hospital Authority.

Hong Kong reported another 31,008 infections on Sunday and 153 fatalities in the preceeding 24 hours.

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