Mandatory testing begins as more cases loom

Local | 14 Nov 2020 6:53 pm

The government introduces mandatory testing amid the spike of local cases

The Executive Council has endorsed mandatory Covid-19 testings for high-risk groups and social distancing measures will be tightened.

High-risk groups will have to undergo compulsory Covid-19 testings starting from tomorrow. The new regulation also allows private doctors to issue a notice to any patients who are suspected to be infected with the virus.

Health officials warn that those who refuse may face a maximum of six-month imprisonment and a fine of HK$25,000. 

Secretary for Food and Health Sophia Chan Siu-chee said the measures are essential  to prevent the fourth wave of coronavirus hits. 

“The signs are worrying, in terms of looking at all the cases and we have to do whatever we can in terms of our epidemic control measures to prevent the fourth wave from coming," the minister said.

Social distancing measures would also be tightened to the dining ban will cap at four people per table at restaurants and two people per table at bars. 

Starting from Monday, opening hours of restaurants would also be limited to midnight instead of 2am. Diners are banned from eating or drinking away from tables and must wear face masks when leaving their tables. 

Capacity allowed in restaurants, bars, pubs and swimming pools will be reduced from 75 percent of the usual level to half.

The revised arrangements will last for 11 days until November 26.

The government is proposing to restrict hotels to have a maximum of four guests in a room unless they are of the same family. Hotels will also have to record all guests’ personal information given a number of cases linked to groups taking staycations at local hotels.

Hotel operators must also ensure that people undergoing quarantine will be located on separate floors from others, and will not be allowed to receive visitors to curb transmission from the imported cases. Measures should also be taken to prevent those under quarantine leaving their room.

“If people undergoing quarantine require carers, they must get approval from the health department and the carer must also be quarantined in the hotel room,” Chan said.

Earlier today, Professor David Hui Shu-cheong from the Chinese University of Hong Kong, an adviser to the government epidemic control measures on Covid-19, warned on a radio program that the city may enter the fourth wave of Covid-19 as 14 local infections with no clear source were reported this week.

The adviser said that the authorities should consider conducting mandatory testing among taxi drivers if the uptake of free testing rate stays low since at least four taxi drivers tested positive this week, with no clear link between them.

Both leading microbiologist Yuen Kwok-yung and University of Hong Kong faculty of medicine dean, Gabriel Leung Cheuk-wai predict that the city may see a fourth wave of coronavirus.

Yuen said that the public should limit the times of taking off face masks to prevent another mass outbreak in the community. The authorities should also provide subsidies for confirmed patients to cover their salary during hospitalization as an incentive to attract more people to conduct Covid-19 screenings.

 

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