Compulsory citywide Covid-19 testing is “not a priority,” Chief Executive Carrie Lam said on Wednesday. However, “preparation work and planning [for mass testing] will continue.”

Last month, the chief executive said that the government was planning to conduct compulsory mass testing in March. However, during a new daily press briefing on Wednesday, Lam said the scheme was no longer needed to understand the scale of infections in Hong Kong.

Chief Executive Carrie Lam meeting the press on March 2, 2022. Photo: Selina Cheng/HKFP.

“If we’re using compulsory universal testing to understand the scale of infections in Hong Kong, this probably is no longer needed, because rapid antigen tests (RATs) are widely used… [these] already give us a good grasp of the situation in Hong Kong, especially now that there is a declaration mechanism,” Lam said.

However, citywide testing could still facilitate the reopening of businesses by finding and cutting all invisible transmission links, Lam said, adding that the government would look for a suitable time to conduct such work. “Planning and preparation work will continue, but it is not a priority,” she added.

The chief executive also said that the administration would listen to and consider experts’ opinions.

Hong Kong has reported 527,260 infections and 2,578 deaths since the beginning of the pandemic over two years ago.

‘Very high on our priority’

Following the initial announcement of plans for citywide testing, all local schools in Hong Kong were told to halt for an early “summer holiday,” as the government planned to use campuses as vaccination and testing centres.

File photo GovHK.

The chief executive said that the decision was “not denying or depriving the students of their learning opportunities,” and that “the interest of the child has been put very high on our priority in tackling the Covid-19 epidemic.”

“Previously we’ll just suspend face-to-face learning, replaced by online learning, regardless of the duration. But this time, exactly because we want to preserve the opportunities of students to learn in a face-to-face environment, we have adjusted the school calendar,” Lam said.

LATEST ON COVID-19 IN HONG KONG
HKFP GUIDES

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.