Hong Kong govt exercises new power on compulsory testing after Covid-19 cluster grows

HONG KONG – For the first time, the Hong Kong government has exercised its new power to make Covid-19 testing compulsory, beginning with visitors to 14 dance premises as a cluster that started at a dance club in Wan Chai continues to grow.

Under the Prevention and Control of Disease (Compulsory Testing for Certain Persons) Regulation, any person who had been present at 14 specified dance premises during the period of Nov 1 to 21 must undergo a Covid-19 nucleic acid test by Tuesday (Nov 24).

A total of 32 people have been confirmed to have Covid-19 as part of the cluster that was traced to the Starlight Dance Club in Wan Chai, public broadcaster RTHK reported on Sunday.

The 14 dance premises operated as party rooms, the government said. All party room businesses have been ordered to shut for five days from Sunday till Thursday. Live performance and dancing in bars, pubs and clubs have also been banned for the same period.

A Food and Health Bureau spokesman said in a statement on Sunday: “The local epidemic situation is worsening rapidly. The number of confirmed cases of a cluster related to dancing activities and dancing venues continued to increase significantly in the past few days, with cases distributed all over the territory and some confirmed cases are asymptomatic.

“It indicates the existence of many silent transmission chains in the community.”

Any person who fails to comply with a testing notice may be fined a fixed penalty of HK$2,000 (S$345). If that person continues to refuse to be tested, he will face prosecution that includes a fine of HK$25,000 and a jail sentence of six months, the government said in the statement.

Those who underwent testing are advised to stay at home and avoid going out when waiting for the test results, so as to reduce transmission risk.

The government will provide a one-off grant of HK$5,000 to citizens who have been confirmed to have Covid-19 – to address their concerns for their livelihoods should they test positive and risk losing their income.

The Food and Health Bureau said it is also working on compulsory testing for other high-risk groups, including those with Covid-19 symptoms, taxi drivers, and staff of residential care homes for the elderly.

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“The government urges all individuals who are in doubt about their own health conditions, or individuals with infection risks… to undergo testing promptly for early identification of infected persons,” the bureau’s spokesman said.

By the end at Saturday, Hong Kong had reported 5,560 confirmed Covid-19 cases, including 108 deaths, Xinhua news agency reported.

Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam had pledged more testing to cut transmission chains.

Weighed on by the worsening epidemic, the bilateral Air Travel Bubble between Hong Kong and Singapore due to start on Sunday was postponed for two weeks.

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