Join Universal Community Testing Cut virus transmission chains
30 August 2020
Last Friday (August 28), I attended a special meeting of the House Committee of the Legislative Council (LegCo) with a number of Directors of Bureaux and Heads of Departments as well as the Chief Executive of the Hospital Authority (HA) to update members on the Government's anti-epidemic work and listen to their views. This was the first meeting convened by the House Committee since the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress had made its decision on August 11 for the sixth-term LegCo of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) to continue to discharge duties for no less than one year. I would like to express my gratitude to all LegCo members for according priority to anti-epidemic work and public health by convening the special meeting.
The current-term HKSAR Government attaches great importance to the executive-legislature relationship. In the coming year, I hope that all LegCo members will continue to carry out their statutory functions in the LegCo and set aside their differences and disputes in the interests of the people of Hong Kong. At this critical juncture amid the epidemic, sincere collaboration between the executive and the legislature is most vital.
Join the Universal Community Testing Programme (UCTP) to protect yourself and others
There is a long battle ahead of us as it is almost impossible for the epidemic to die out in the near future. Under the new normal, we have to be psychologically prepared to live with the virus for a longer period until an effective vaccine is developed and widely applied. We are likely to have resurgent waves of infection and community outbreaks may recur. Experts have warned about the possible winter wave which may occur concurrently with the influenza season. Members of the public must therefore remain vigilant and patient by keeping strict adherence to various anti-epidemic measures and personal hygiene.
The Government will launch the UCTP next Tuesday (September 1). It will run for seven days and may be extended for at most another seven days depending on the progress. Online booking started at 7 a.m. yesterday. As at 10 p.m., over 290 000 bookings were made and 48 testing centres were fully booked for appointments for September 1. The UCTP has three key features - voluntary participation, safeguarding privacy and convenient testing service for free.
First, it aims at providing voluntary virus testing for all citizens to help identify asymptomatic carriers in the community for early isolation, early treatment and contact tracing, so that the transmission chains can be cut as soon as possible, and the economy, society and people's daily lives can resume normal.
Second, participants will be tested for COVID-19 only. All testing will be conducted in Hong Kong and no specimen will be transported out of the territory. Personal data of participants will be handled with due care. For cases with positive results, the information will be passed to the Department of Health (DH) and the HA for follow-up. As for other cases, the personal data and test results will be deleted upon completion of the programme. All specimens will also be destroyed afterwards.
Third, the testing is free of charge and the process is simple, fast and convenient. A total of 141 community testing centres have been set up in all districts across the territory, with opening hours from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Online booking is now open and registration is simple and easy.
Upon arrival at the testing centres for scheduled appointments, participants will have their identity verified, after which their combined nasal and throat swabs will be collected by duty healthcare personnel. Those tested negative will be notified through SMS, while those tested positive will be followed up by the DH immediately. Over 6 000 healthcare personnel have enrolled to work under the UCTP, thanks to the support of the healthcare sector.
Members of the public who show no symptoms of infections are strongly advised to take part in the UCTP, which is voluntary and free of charge. It is in their own interests and those of their families and friends as well as the whole community that they are tested early to ascertain whether they are uninfected or asymptomatic.
While the epidemic has eased a bit, the UCTP still has a crucial role to play in controlling the spread of the virus. The higher the number of participants, the more effective it will be for curtailing the epidemic early. I appeal to all citizens to join the UCTP to protect themselves and others and stand united to break invisible transmission chains in the community so as to get Hong Kong's economy and society back on track in soonest possible. For the unswerving support and assistance rendered by the country for our fight against the virus, the HKSAR Government is most grateful.
The prolonged epidemic has dealt an unprecedented blow to Hong Kong's economic activities. For this reason, the Government has launched two rounds of measures under the Anti-epidemic Fund and relief measures in the Budget, committing over $280 billion thus far. As at mid-August, 73 measures have been approved under the fund with around $75 billion of subsidies disbursed.
The Government has planned to roll out a new round of relief measures. Meanwhile, I and other principal officials are gauging views from different sectors. As Hong Kong will likely experience immense pressure from economic recession and a record high deficit is envisaged for the current financial year, we will, on the premise that public money is used prudently, formulate appropriate measures for enterprises and individuals affected by the epidemic and the Government's anti-epidemic measures to help them tide over the difficulties.
Preparing for an extraordinary new school year
The new school year will kick off soon after a long summer holiday. It will be an extraordinary year amid the epidemic. To prevent and control the infection and ensure the safety of teachers and students while meeting the learning needs, all local primary and secondary school students will temporarily learn from home with the support of schools at the start of the new school year on September 1.
Drawing experience from previous class suspension, many schools will flexibly arrange home learning for students through suitable diversified teaching modes, including online teaching, to achieve “suspending classes without suspending learning”. My gratitude goes to all principals and teachers for responding quickly in face of the epidemic and various challenges by elaborately designing and arranging suitable teaching activities for students.
The Government will closely monitor the development of the epidemic and seek advice from medical experts. Once a decision on the resumption of face-to-face classes is made, the Education Bureau (EDB) will make an announcement and inform schools early for better preparation.
A nation will prosper only when its young people thrive, and be strong only when its young people are strong. The HKSAR Government is committed to nurturing the younger generation into citizens who have a positive outlook on life, are socially responsible and law-abiding, and possess a sense of national identity, a love for Hong Kong as well as an international perspective.
Moreover, we should instill a sense of national identity and law-abidingness in students so that they will be good and responsible for both society and the country. Safeguarding national sovereignty, security and development interests is not only a constitutional duty of the HKSAR, but also a collective obligation of all Hong Kong citizens, including school staff and students. With the promulgation of the National Security Law for Hong Kong, the EDB has issued a circular to schools, reminding their management, teaching and non-teaching staff as well as students of the need to learn, understand and observe the Law. We will continue with our efforts that complement school curriculum with learning and teaching resources and various learning activities to support schools in enhancing students' understanding of the Constitution and the Basic Law, as well as the importance of “One Country, Two Systems” and national security.
Shenzhen Special Economic Zone (SEZ) enters its 40th anniversary
Last Wednesday (August 26), I attended the opening ceremony of the Liantang Port/Heung Yuen Wai Boundary Control Point (BCP) in Shenzhen. The opening of the BCP is particularly momentous as it also marked the 40th anniversary of the establishment of the Shenzhen SEZ.
The Liantang Port/Heung Yuen Wai BCP is the seventh land-based control point at the Hong Kong-Shenzhen boundary. A further enhancement to the ideal “one-hour living circle” within the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area (Greater Bay Area), the BCP directly connects with the Shenzhen Eastern Corridor, shortening the travelling time and hence facilitating mutual co-operation and development between Hong Kong, Shenzhen, eastern Guangdong (including Huizhou and Shanwei) and neighbouring provinces. Its opening marks an important milestone in Hong Kong - Shenzhen collaboration, strengthening the tie between the two cities.
With the spirit of innovation and advancement, Shenzhen, a once quiet rural area, has sailed through a 40 challenging years to become a metropolis and major innovation and technology hub of the country. I sincerely wish the Shenzhen SEZ many more years of prosperity and progress, and that Hong Kong and Shenzhen will achieve complementary development and mutual benefits through deeper co-operation fostered by the key national development strategy of the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macau Greater Bay Area.