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Coronavirus

Hong Kong steps up COVID-19 testing as details of President Xi’s visit emerge

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Hong Kong’s government stepped up its COVID-19 testing program and advised against large family gatherings, days before landmark celebrations to mark 25 years of Chinese rule and a reported visit by President Xi Jinping.

Testing over the next few days will focus on high-risk districts where infections have broken out and coronavirus has been found in sewage samples, the government said in a statement. Compulsory tests have already been ramped up in these areas in a bid to stop the virus spreading.

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Hong Kong has resisted tightening social curbs in recent months despite rising cases. That’s put the city’s pandemic approach at odds with Xi’s flagship COVID-Zero policy.

The ramping up of the testing program comes before an anticipated two-day visit by Xi for the anniversary festivities.

According to the South China Morning Post, Xi will begin his trip to Hong Kong on June 30 before the 25-year celebrations on July 1. Thousands of police officers will descend on the West Kowloon high-speed rail terminus, where Xi and mainland officials are due to arrive from Shenzhen, the newspaper said. Xi won’t stay overnight in Hong Kong, according to the report.

He will attend a banquet hosted by outgoing Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam at her official residence on Thursday, according to the Post.

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It will be Xi’s first visit to the city in five years, and his first outside the mainland since January 2020, as his pandemic policy has largely closed China’s borders.

The Hong Kong government said the virus has recently showed up in sewage from Wan Chai, Sha Tin and Yau Tsim Mong districts and residents have been given rapid testing kits. The government will continue to give out free tests to those aged 60 and above, adding to the 11 million kits already distributed, it said.

The city won’t conduct mass-testing like neighboring Macau, HK01 reported, citing incoming health chief Lo Chung-mau’s discussions with politicians.

The government urged people to be vigilant. They should “undergo testing frequently, continue to observe the social distancing measures, avoid going out as much as possible and taking part in crowded or unnecessary activities or gatherings,” it said.

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