HONG KONG (Reuters) – Hong Kong began free coronavirus testing for all residents within the Asian financial hub on Tuesday, because the mainland Chinese-led initiative faced scepticism from the city’s medical profession and public, with some activists urging a boycott.
People line up at the community testing centre for the coronavirus disease COVID-19 in Hong Kong , China September 1, 2020. REUTERS/Tyrone Siu
The initiative began at 8.00 am (0000 GMT), with a 60-strong mainland team conducting tests. it’s the primary direct help from China’s health officials for the semi-autonomous city because it battles the pandemic.
The scheme has emerged as a politically charged issue, with authorities in Hong Kong and China saying critics try to smear the central government.
Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam told a daily press briefing the testing was necessary to seek out invisible transmissions within society and urged medical workers to treat the testing “objectively and professionally.”
The issue comes at a sensitive time with anxiety running high about what many of Hong Kong’s 7.5 million residents see as Beijing’s efforts to rein in their freedoms, especially with a national security law imposed in June.
Lam said at the press conference that Hong Kong’s executive, legislative and judicial powers are derived from Beijing.
“Our power is from the central government’s authorization to Hong Kong ,” she said in comments that are likely to stoke further concern that the town has taken a more authoritarian turn.
China’s offer to check residents comes because the number of latest daily cases within the former British colony has fallen substantially, to single- or low double-digits, from triple-digits during the newest surge in cases a couple of weeks ago.
Nearly 600,000 people have signed up for the free testing, with people lining abreast of Tuesday at the 141 test centres across the town .
A Hong Kong pro-democracy union of healthcare workers and a number of other activists called on Sunday for a boycott of the scheme.
Some democracy activists have suggested that people’s DNA are going to be collected and abused under the duvet of testing. the govt has dismissed that saying no samples would be taken out of the town .
The volume of testing is thanks to increase to 500,000 each day from about 12,000 previously, authorities have said.
“Doing the testing will set my mind and others’ comfortable ,” said a 68-year old woman surnamed Cheung, as she queued outside a sports centre used for testing.