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Wednesday, Mar 22, 2023

Hong Kong lacks policy for ‘normalization’ as epidemic passes peak

Hong Kong lacks policy for ‘normalization’ as epidemic passes peak

Experts have slammed the government for failing to issue policies to help society back to normal during the current epidemic.
The former Transport and Housing Bureau minister Anthony Cheung Bing-leung noted on Tuesday that it is vital for Hong Kong to return to normal as it suffered a significant loss of international trade business, foreign capital, and brain drain, which sharply harmed the global image of the city.

“The Hong Kong government has been maintaining the measures for ‘anti-epidemic’ for a long term,” he wrote in a post published in a newspaper, “rather than embracing any policies to promote society for normalization.”

“The current focus should be moved to relax the disease prevention arrangements since the circumstance of Covid has changed,” Cheung said, noting it is unable for citizens to “tolerate endlessly.”

Cheung added he hoped that the Policy Address scheduled to be delivered next month by Chief Executive would provide a clear and advanced plan for ending Hong Kong’s current problems.

Wilson Lam Wai-shun, an infectious disease specialist, said in a radio program today that “the current wave of the epidemic has reached its peak, predicting the confirmed cases recorded daily will see a declining trend in subsequent months.

“It means the city is capable of relaxing disease prevention measures,” he noted.

In the press briefing on Tuesday morning, Hong Kong’s leader John Lee Ka-chiu announced the city will actively “connect with the world to allow an orderly opening-up.”

The number of infections has fallen to about 6,000 a day, creating room to reconsider the measures that have crimped the city’s competitiveness, he added.

“We know for the epidemic control, there’s impact on connectivity to the world,” Lee said. “We want to have the maximum connectivity to the world and to reduce inconvenience related to quarantine rules.”

The plans appear to have been blessed by leaders in mainland China, despite their adherence to a zero-tolerance approach to the virus.

China supports Hong Kong’s efforts to have close, extensive contact with the rest of the world and sees no problem with adjusting its rules, Huang Liuquan, deputy director of China’s Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office, said at a separate briefing in Beijing.

No changes in China are expected until after the Communist Party congress in mid-October, when Xi is expected to get a precedent-breaking third term in office.

Hong Kong is trailing the reopening measures that have been put in place this year by all of its major financial rivals, including New York, London and, most importantly in the region, Singapore.

Many expatriate workers have left the city for Singapore, which started its reopening in the spring and stuck with it even as case counts rebounded.

Singapore’s quick reversion to pre-pandemic life has been watched with envy and angst by Hong Kong residents, especially as mainstay events the two cities once shared, like the Rugby Sevens tournament and the Standard Chartered marathon, return without incident in the Southeast Asian state.

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