As residents run out of patience, Hong Kong considers easing Covid restrictions
The Hong Kong government is considering rolling back some Covid restrictions, aware that public tolerance is fading. Chief Executive Carrie Lam says that even though the infection rate is not yet declining, some restrictions could be eased, recognising that the public has had enough.
“Not because the number of cases has come down, but I have a very strong feeling that people’s tolerance is fading. Some of our financial institutions are losing patience about this sort of isolated status of Hong Kong.”
Lam’s government has been sharply criticised for its handling of the pandemic, and in particular, this latest wave, which has seen the territory report the world’s highest-death rate. Vaccine hesitancy has not helped matters, with most deaths reported in the elderly and unvaccinated. According to an AFP report, Hong Kong has reported 1 million infections and 4,600 deaths in less than 3 months.
All this despite some of the world’s harshest restrictions and border closures. Since the arrival of the Omicron variant in January, Hong Kong has banned public gatherings of more than 2 people, enforced mask-wearing, including while outdoors and exercising, and slapped restrictions on night-time dining. On Thursday, the government closed all public beaches. Despite this, Lam has told a press conference that the time has come to review restrictions, although she was unable to confirm a roadmap for existing the current crisis.
“The most difficult part of fighting the virus is that we cannot fully predict what’s going to happen.”
Meanwhile, ever-changing rules and government backtracking have only served to further test the public’s patience. The government initially announced a plan to lock down and conduct mast testing on the city’s 7.4 million residents, then changed its mind. The confusion and mixed messaging, coupled with increased restrictions, led to record-high departures in February, with a mass exodus of 65,000 local and foreign residents.
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