BEIJING — Hong Kong authorities on Saturday asked the entire population of more than 7.4 million people to voluntarily test themselves for COVID-19 at home for three days in a row starting next week.
Carrie Lam, chief executive of Carrie Lam made the announcement at a time when southern Chinese cities are struggling to contain their worst outbreak.
Lam said a “compulsory, universal test” of the whole population is still essential, but did not say when that might happen. After panic selling, authorities put off the plan.
The prospect of further school closures and other disruptions has the government caught between calls for loosening restrictions and Beijing’s demand for an extreme “zero-COVID” approach mandating lockdowns and mass testing.
Hong Kong is a semi-autonomous region that lifted the ban on citizens returning from nine countries in which COVID-19 cases rose, including Britain, and the U.S.
As the surge in demand begins to slow, Hong Kong has reported an additional 5,820 cases on Friday.
Meanwhile, in Shanghai to the north, authorities are struggling to meet requirements for a lockdown on many of the city’s 26 million residents — the largest such undertaking by China since the virus was first detected in the central city of Wuhan in late 2019.
Shanghai will implement a two-stage lockdown lasting eight days. But many on the Pudong (or eastern) side of Shanghai have remained inside.
Puxi has been placed under isolation by authorities. Non-essential business have been closed down and all public transport stopped. According to state media, 14 million Puxi residents were tested Friday.
People living in isolation reported difficulty getting food and household supplies, as well as difficulties getting medication. However, isolation centers had inadequate staff and beds to accommodate the increasing number of patients who were suffering from asymptomatic conditions.
China confirmed another 2,086 cases Saturday. Including 260 cases in Shanghai. There were also 7,789 cases that had not yet been diagnosed. Of the 6,051 cases in Shanghai, China found 7,789 cases. Total numbers of new cases have been near record highs for several days, but no new deaths have been reported since March 20, leaving China’s total at 4,638. The National Health Commission reports that China has recorded an estimated 153,232 new cases.
Compared to Wuhan in 2020, Shanghai has benefited from China’s experience and is better prepared, even though the outbreak is wider in scale, Chen Erzhen, commander of the third contingent of medical teams dispatched to the city, was quoted as saying by the official Xinhua Daily newspaper.
That’s because the omicron BA.2 variant is more infectious though less virulent, leading to the large number of asymptomatic cases, which China has categorized separately from “confirmed” cases.
“There is more pressure because the larger number of patients increases the task of controlling the outbreak,” Chen said. “But at present, Shanghai’s sit
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