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Hong Kong asks all 7.4m residents to voluntarily test themselves for coronavirus

The Chinese territory is struggling to contain a fifth wave of infections.

Workers wearing gowns, masks and gloves, direct arriving passengers from Manila for buses to quarantine hotels in Hong Kong international airport, Friday, April 1, 2022. Flights started landing in Hong Kong Friday after authorities lifted a COVID ban on arrivals from nine countries including Australia, Canada, France, India, Nepal, Pakistan, the Philippines, the UK and the US. (AP Photo/Kin Cheung)

By Associated Press Reporters

Hong Kong authorities have 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.

The announcement by chief executive Carrie Lam on Saturday came as the Chinese territory struggles to contain a fifth wave of infections that has led to mixed signals about testing and lockdowns.

Ms Lam said a “compulsory, universal test” of the whole population is still essential, but did not say when that might happen. Authorities shelved the idea after a previous announcement caused panic buying.

Carrie Lam (Vincent Yu/AP)

The prospect of further school closures and other disruption has the government caught between calls to loosen restrictions and Beijing’s demand for an extreme “zero-Covid” approach mandating lockdowns and mass testing.

Hong Kong on Friday lifted a ban on residents returning aboard flights from nine countries where Covid-19 cases have surged, including Britain and the US.

The territory reported another 5,820 cases were detected on Friday as the latest surge begins to taper off.

Meanwhile, in Shanghai, 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 is implementing a two-stage, eight-day lockdown, but many of those on the eastern, or Pudong, side of the city who should have been free to leave their compounds on Friday have remained in isolation.

Mass Covid testing in Shanghai (Chen Si/AP)

Authorities have placed the other half of the city, Puxi, under isolation with non-essential businesses and public transport brought to a stop and roads cleared of cars and people.

A total of 14 million Puxi residents were tested on Friday, according to state media.

Residents under isolation complained of difficulty obtaining food, household items and medications, while beds and staff at isolation centres were reportedly insufficient for the number of asymptomatic patients and others arriving for observation.

China detected another 2,086 confirmed cases on Saturday, including 260 in Shanghai, and 7,789 asymptomatic cases, of which 6,051 were in Shanghai.

Total numbers of new cases have been near record highs for several days.

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