Hong Kong leader announces mass COVID-19 testing to begin September 1

Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam attends a news conference on the global outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Hong Kong

HONG KONG (Reuters) – Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam said on Friday that mass testing of residents for coronavirus in the Asian financial hub will begin on Sept. 1, as she warned people not to be complacent despite a steady fall in the number of new infections.

The testing, which will be done with the assistance of a 60-person team from the mainland, is the first time Chinese health officials have assisted the special administrative region in its battle to control the pandemic. 

The testing will be voluntary and take around two weeks to complete, Lam said.

“There will be a substantial boosting of the testing capacity in the public and private sector, a more than 10-fold increase.”

Hong Kong had seen a resurgence of locally transmitted cases since the start of July but the daily number has fallen from triple digits in recent weeks to low double digits.

The former British colony still has a relatively low number of overall cases globally. Since late January, over 4,600 people have been infected in Hong Kong, 75 of whom have died.

Restrictions including a ban on dining at restaurants after 6 p.m. and the mandatory wearing of masks in all outdoor public areas are set to remain in force until at least August 25.

Businesses across the city have been reeling from the restrictions with many industries calling on the government for urgent financial support.

(Reporting by Carol Mang and Yanni Chow; Writing by Farah Master; Editing by Alison Williams and Raju Gopalakrishnan)

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