There is a large section of people who believe that the root of coronavirus pandemic emanates from China. At last count, there have been over 24 million cases worldwide till date which has resulted in over 822,000 due to Covid-19.
Now, a Chinese government offer to test all Hong Kong residents for the novel coronavirus is meeting scepticism from the city’s medical community and public. A 60-person mainland Chinese team will carry out tests and build temporary hospitals in the first direct help from Chinese health officials for the semi-autonomous city in its battle with the epidemic.
But it comes at a sensitive time for the former British colony, with anxiety running high about what many of its 7.5 million residents see as Beijing’s efforts to rein in their freedoms, in particular with a national security law imposed in June.
Against this background, some democracy activists have suggested that people’s DNA will be collected and abused under the cover of testing. The city government has dismissed that saying no samples would be taken out of the city.
The programme is due to begin on September 1 on a voluntary basis, with the volume of testing due to increase to 5,00,000 a day from about 12,000 now.
It comes as the number of new daily cases in Hong Kong has fallen substantially, to single digit or low double-digits figures, from triple digits during the city’s latest surge in cases a few weeks ago.
Some medical experts have cast doubt on the effectiveness and need for the tests, with some branding the exercise more of a political effort by Beijing to burnish its image rather than a medical necessity.
“We feel uncomfortable about the whole thing,” said Arisina Ma, head of the Hong Kong Public Doctors Association, was quoted as saying by news agency Reuters.
“The government just pushed it without really enquiring what we need. They’ve put politics above all social issues and public interests,” Ma added.
She said the government should instead focus on testing high-risk groups, such as the elderly and residents of care homes where outbreaks have occurred. The president of the Hong Kong Medical Association, Gabriel Choi, said the scheme was rushed and universal testing was not effective.
“People who do not think they need the test will not come forward. There is not much incentive. Myself, I’m pessimistic,” Choi told the international news agency.
The city’s Beijing-backed chief executive, Carrie Lam, has criticised such talk as an attempt to “smear the central government”. “Well-known people, especially in the relevant professional area, should express their view in a more responsible way,” she told a news conference on Tuesday (August 25), as she urged everyone to get tested.
Still, many residents, including doctors, say they will skip it. “Doing the testing now will root out a few cases but nothing substantial. It’s ineffective and a colossal waste of government money,” said a 35-year-old Hong Kong woman who asked to be identified as just Judy.