Grasp final chance for Universal Community Testing Programme
Social distancing rules relaxed gradually in phases
13 September 2020
The Universal Community Testing Programme (UCTP) has been extended for three days to September 14. As of 10 p.m. last night, the number of citizens who had registered online for the testing reached 1.34 million. Including quite a number of walk-ins, the cumulative total of participants tested has already exceeded 1.66 million. Specimens with preliminary positive test results were sent to the Public Health Laboratory Services Branch of the Department of Health (DH) for confirmatory tests. So far, 23 such specimens have been confirmed positive by the DH. This proves that the UCTP can help isolate confirmed cases and quarantine close contacts at the earliest possible time.
Tomorrow will be the last day of the UCTP. With community testing centres set up in all 18 districts, members of the public (especially foreign domestic helpers and students) who have not yet undergone testing should seize this final opportunity to do so today or tomorrow. This will help to cut the virus transmission chains in the community and put the participants as well as their families and friends more at ease.
Overcoming crisis with Central Government’s support and community’s concerted efforts
The third wave of the epidemic was swift and fierce. The epidemic situation saw a drastic change in early July with numerous local cases of unknown sources emerging over a short period of time. Various data pointed to a large-scale local outbreak and the situation was very acute.
Caring very much about Hong Kong, the Central Government has responded proactively to our requests and given us support. With the Mainland nucleic acid test support team rendering its utmost assistance, we were able to enhance our testing capability in a short period of time and launch the large-scale UCTP to provide voluntary virus testing for all citizens.
Yesterday afternoon, I visited the temporary air-inflated laboratories at Sun Yat Sen Memorial Park Sports Centre to view the operation of the support team. I would like to express my heartfelt gratitude to all members of the team who have been working flat out round the clock for the people of Hong Kong to ensure that those being tested will get their test results within the shortest time.
In his keynote speech delivered at a meeting to commend role models in the country’s fight against the COVID-19 epidemic last week, President Xi Jinping stressed that “the lives of our people will be protected at all costs.” Faced with ill-intentioned rumours and smears, members of the support team working assiduously in the temporary laboratories still hold the belief that people are of paramount importance and that people’s lives and health must be put before anything else. Their indomitable spirit, tolerance and tenacity are a manifestation of what President Xi described as the spirit of selfless commitment. Such significant contribution to Hong Kong’s fight against the epidemic deserve our respect.
My deepest gratitude also goes to the thousands of medical and healthcare staff who are responsible for collecting specimens as well as the serving and retired civil servants rendering support at the community testing centres. They, together with many others who work tirelessly behind the scenes, have exerted incredible efforts in getting Hong Kong through the COVID-19 adversity, fully demonstrating a sense of civic responsibility. These people are all anti-epidemic heroes.
Relaxing measures in a gradual and orderly manner
Having regard to the local epidemic situation, which has continued to subside and is stabilising gradually, as well as the need for society as a whole to resume more social and economic activities, the Government implemented the third phase of relaxation of social distancing measures on September 11, which will last for seven days until September 17. We will gradually relax other anti-epidemic measures in light of the development of the epidemic.
Despite the gradual and orderly relaxation of social distancing measures, I call on members of the public to remain vigilant. We should not let down our guard, not even if we get back to “zero infection”. Some experts have spoken of a possible fourth wave of outbreak this autumn and winter. It is important that we are prepared to live with the virus until effective vaccines are available and widely used.
New round of Anti-epidemic Fund
The epidemic, the global economic recession and the ongoing third wave of outbreak have cast a dim light over our economy for the coming year. As a responsible and people-oriented government, we must strive to sustain Hong Kong’s economic development and financial stability, while making every endeavour to support local enterprises, safeguard employment and relieve people’s hardship.
The Government has earlier rolled out a number of measures under two rounds of the Anti-epidemic Fund to safeguard employment and livelihood. The upcoming round will focus on supporting businesses and individuals directly affected by the social distancing measures. The Government will formulate appropriate measures on the premise of ensuring prudent use of public money, and is planning to seek funding approval from the Finance Committee of the Legislative Council in late September.
Upholding and defending the rule of law
In the Economic Freedom of the World 2020 Annual Report published by the Fraser Institute of Canada last week, Hong Kong was once again ranked as the world’s freest economy, an unambiguous recognition of our steadfast commitment to building a free economy with a level playing field. The report also gave ratings on the rule of law, a fundamental core value of Hong Kong much cherished by the people. The Government and the community as a whole have been determined to uphold and defend the rule of law, and it is to our great regret that the Fraser Institute has pre-empted lower future scores in this area with biased comments and unfair speculations based on selective ungrounded views.
The Basic Law fully protects citizens’ rights to freedom of expression and of peaceful assembly, but these rights and freedoms are not absolute and are subject to restrictions as prescribed by law and necessary in the interests of, for example, public order.
The international community should not hold a double standard on the National Security Law. Safeguarding national security through legislation is in line with international practice. Every country has, and should have, its own laws to safeguard national security and sovereignty.
The National Security Law ensures the continued success of “One country, Two Systems” and helps maintain the long-term prosperity, stability and peace of Hong Kong. The Government will strive to consolidate Hong Kong’s established institutional strengths and provide a stable environment conducive to business success as well as continuous prosperity of the economy as a whole.