All residents are “strongly urged” to take three Covid-19 tests using rapid antigen test (RAT) kits between April 8 and April 10, Chief Executive Carrie Lam said on Saturday as the city’s 3 million households began receiving service kits from the government.
“We really hope that the entire city can get together and unite against the pandemic, and urging everyone to do the same thing at the same time can further strengthen the power in fighting against the pandemic,” said Lam.
According to Lam, the scheme is voluntary, and those who test positive will have to upload their results to the government’s online declaration platform within 24 hours. The government will also not impose measures to prevent people from going out during the test period.
The voluntary scheme will not be a substitute to the government’s plan to carry out compulsory universal testing, said the chief executive. Plans to test the city’s entire population were suspended last month following the initial announcement in February.
Hong Kong has recorded 1,171,422 Covid-19 infections and 8,172 deaths since the beginning of the pandemic over two years ago.
Chief exec. candidates rules exemption
As the nomination period for the chief executive election began on Sunday, Chief Secretary John Lee announced on Saturday exemptions for candidates to hold gatherings in private premises with more than two households.
Under current Covid-19 social distancing measures, no gatherings of more than two households are allowed on any private premises, and no gathering of more than two people are allowed in public places.
The chief secretary has made exemptions for anyone who publicly declared that they intend to run in the election to hold gatherings with members of the Election Committee, while those who are deemed validly nominated by the Candidate Eligibility Review Committee will be allowed to hold election-linked gatherings with the public.
When asked if the exemptions made meant that the election was more important than fighting the Covid-19 pandemic, Lam said on Sunday that the chief secretary made the decision “based on great public interest.”
Hong Kong’s leader is elected by a small-circle Election Committee. Only individuals or representatives from a list of bodies from various sectors recognised by the government are eligible to become an election committee member, and to vote for one.
Originally designed to have 1,500 seats, the committee currently consists of 1,448 individuals who are largely pro-establishment.
Eligible citizens will be able to collect the first HK$5,000 consumption vouchers from April 7, Financial Secretary Paul Chan announced on Sunday.
The financial chief urged citizens not to rush to use the vouchers, while the chief executive said that there was no conflict with the government asking people to reduce social gatherings whilst they also gave out shopping vouchers.
“The current anti-epidemic requirements are still urging citizens to reduce gatherings, not go out unless it is necessary, or hold cross-household gatherings, and there is still no dine-in services in restaurants at night – these are all prerequisites for using consumption vouchers, and citizens also have to obey these social distancing rules while using the vouchers, therefore there is no conflict,” said Lam.
In the budget published in February, Chan announced plans to distribute a new round of HK$10,000 electronic spending coupon to all permanent residents and new immigrants to Hong Kong who are aged 18 or above. Foreign domestic workers were excluded.