A massive coronovirus trial effort led by Beijing came to a halt in Hong Kong on Tuesday, with around 650,000 people attending for boycott calls from some pro-democracy activists and healthcare activists in the city.
For at least a week, residents will be able to get free nose and throat combination tests at more than 140 testing centers set up across the city.
The Asian Financial Center had to tighten its social disturbance measures in early July during the third wave of COVID-19 infection, but its outbreak has come under control with twelve new cases reported on Tuesday.
But to prevent any new broadcasts, the government is hoping that residents will come forward and volunteer to conduct free trials this week.
Beijing will assist in the trial with a temporary lab and a team of at least 60 experts, which has called for a massive boycott, including Hong Kong’s pro-democracy union and some pro-democracy activists, Joshua Wong’s trial later this week.
They say that this is not the most efficient way to contain the virus and that DNA samples can be sent to mainland China. The Hong Kong government has denied the claim, stating that no personal data will be taken from the city.
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The issue comes at a sensitive time for some Hong Kong residents in what they decide as Beijing’s encroachment on their independence.
Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam, who herself tested on Tuesday, told reporters that the program aims to identify the hidden carrier as soon as possible to prevent the spread of the virus.
She denied that the 600,000 people who had signed up for the mass trial so far, a portion of the city’s 7.5 million population, had nothing to do with the level of confidence in Hong Kong’s government.
“But it has something to do with people, who either don’t understand the program details, procedures, security measures, that they try to create anxiety and fear among people, so they will have less to come forward. Self-confidence, ”said Lam.
Large-scale testing has been successful in bringing the outbreak under control in mainland China, Professor Benjamin John Cowling of the School of Public Health at the University of Hong Kong told NBC News.
Officials in Wuhan, a city in mainland China, introduced the virus earlier this year, testing all 11 million of its residents in May, raising fears of a second wave of infection after a group of new cases. According to China’s health officials, there have been no recent cases in Wuhan, and the Xinhua news outlet reported that about 1.4 million students in the city went back to school on Tuesday.
“The government of Beijing and Hong Kong are very excited about demonstrating this large-scale testing approach and as a good way to resolve a community epidemic,” Cowling said.
“If it works in Hong Kong, it will probably work in other parts of the world. This will be a success story for the Chinese approach to controlling COVID-19, ”he said.
Ed flanagan has contributed.