China’s Xi says Hong Kong needs to stabilise and control Covid-19 surge

A woman wears a face mask as she walks across a zebra crossing in Hong Kong on April 28, 2020. Photo/Agencies. Sketched by the Pan Pacific Agency.

HONG KONG, Feb 16, 2022, Reuters. China’s President Xi Jinping has told Hong Kong’s government to stabilise and control a deepening COVID-19 outbreak in the global financial hub as soon as possible, pro-Beijing media reported on Wednesday, WTVB reported.

The directive increases pressure on authorities scrambling to keep pace with a deluge of new infections in the financial hub.

Xi instructed Chinese Vice Premier Han Zheng to relay to Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam his “concern about the pandemic situation” and his care for local residents, according to front page stories in newpapers Wen Wei Po and Ta Kung Pao.

Both media, which typically support Beijing’s interests in Hong Kong, said Xi made the remarks recently but did not specify where he was speaking.

The stories come a day after Lam said her government’s response to the Omicron outbreak had not been satisfactory, with hospitals and medical staff overwhelmed.

Lam, who has not confirmed whether she will seek another five-year term as head of the Chinese-ruled city, said she could “not preclude” the possibility of postponing next month’s chief executive election.

No heavyweight contender has yet declared their candidacy, a highly unusual situation just five weeks before the election.

COVID infections have surged 20 times on a daily basis since the start of February and Lam has said authorities can no longer keep up with testing and isolation mandates.

Dozens of patients were being treated in makeshift open air spaces outside medical centers on Tuesday as several hospitals operated at over 100% capacity.

Health authorities reported 1,619 confirmed infections on Tuesday, a daily record, and another 5,400 preliminary positive cases.

Xi said the government “must mobilise all power and resources to take all necessary measures to ensure the safety and health of the Hong Kong people and ensure the stability of the society in Hong Kong,” according to the newspapers.

Hong Kong has recorded around 26,000 infections since the start of the pandemic, including just over 200 deaths, far fewer than other similar sized major cities.

However, medical experts have warned cases could surge to 28,000 daily by the end of March amid worries about high levels of vaccine hesitancy among the elderly.

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