Customs clearance with the mainland remains priority; nucleic acid testing for all residents continues: Carrie Lam
Published: Mar 23, 2022 11:26 PM
People walk along a waterfront next to Victoria Harbour as it rains in Hong Kong on March 23, 2022. Photo: VCG

People walk along a waterfront next to Victoria Harbour as it rains in Hong Kong on March 23, 2022. Photo: VCG

Speaking at a press conference on Wednesday, Hong Kong Special Administrative Region's (HKSAR) Chief Executive, Carrie Lam, said that customs clearance between Hong Kong and the mainland remains the government's top priority and reiterated that the nucleic acid testing plan for all residents will not be abandoned.

"Due to the social and economic ties between Hong Kong and the mainland, customs clearance remains a priority for the HKSAR government," said Lam, noting that it is still difficult to set a timetable at the moment since the authorities need to make sure the fifth wave of infections stabilizes and dies down first.

Lam said Hong Kong came very close to announcing customs clearance with the mainland in December last year but was unable because of the flareup of the virus.

Hong Kong reported 14,152 confirmed COVID-19 cases on Tuesday, bringing the total number of confirmed cases to nearly 1.05 million since the fifth wave started in early January, according to figures released by the local government.

The HKSAR government announced earlier that it would suspend compulsory testing for all residents. However, Lam reiterated on Wednesday that the government will not give up on the massive nucleic acid testing plan, although the timing needs to be right as it requires  significant resources.

The Chief Executive noted the number of confirmed cases remains high and the focus of the government currently remains on reducing the number of severe cases, deaths and infections, instead of conducting compulsory testing for all residents.

To achieve this goal, the HKSAR government is striving to ensure sufficient hospital beds for COVID-19 patients and has introduced two effective oral treatments to be provided to hospitals, Lam said at a Question and Answer Session conducted by the Legislative Council on Wednesday.

Moreover, the mainland has provided strong support to Hong Kong, including medical staff, the construction of makeshift hospitals and supplies to help the SAR fight the fifth wave. 

In response to questions from lawmakers, Lam expressed sincere gratitude to Chinese companies on behalf of the HKSAR government and hoped that all parties will strengthen cooperation to jointly fight the epidemic.

Hong Kong's response to the epidemic is clear and consistent with the country's guidelines, namely protecting people's lives, containing the epidemic, returning to normality as soon as possible and minimizing the impact of the epidemic on social and economic development, Lam noted.