‘High-risk’ groups required to take COVID-19 test; violators to face jail time, fines

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High-risk groups will have to undergo mandatory COVID-19 testing starting today. (SCREENSHOT: isd.gov.hk)

As the Hong Kong government scrambles to curb the spread of new local coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) infections, “high-risk” populations in the city are now required to get tested.

Secretary for Food and Health Prof. Sophia Chan announced the new testing regulation in a press briefing Saturday and warned that those who will violate the order may face a fine of HK$25,000 and six months imprisonment.

“We want to prevent the fourth wave of transmission so the government needs to expeditiously tighten prevention and control measures,” Chan said in Cantonese Saturday.

The new regulation gazetted Saturday also allows private medical practitioners to issue written notices to patients they suspect to have the virus.

Examples of “high-risk” individuals, as stated in the government statement, include persons who work or live in areas with confirmed outbreaks and persons in a specific occupation.

The mandatory testing order comes amid concerns of a possible local outbreak after five male drivers, four of them manning taxis, tested positive for COVID-19.

Social distancing measures were also tightened again. People dining together in catering premises will only be allowed to eat in groups of four, while only groups of two will be allowed to drink at a table in bars.

These premises will only be allowed to operate at 50% of its total capacity and will have to close at midnight—two hours earlier under the previous measures. This adjustment to the social distancing rules will be in effect until Nov. 26.

Hong Kong authorities are also exploring placing a four-person limit to the number of occupants in a hotel room, unless the guests are from the same family. Hotels will soon be required to register personal particulars.

The proposal comes after a string of COVID-19 infections were linked to a staycation in a resort in Mui Wo.

The Centre for Health Protection also confirmed eight new COVID-19 infections Saturday, of which one is a case with an unknown source. This brings the tally of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the city to 5,445, including one probable case.

Dr. Chuang Shuk-kwan from the CHP also announced there are more than 10 preliminarily positive cases.