Hong Kong govt uses new power to enforce Covid-19 testing

Cluster that started at dance club continues to grow, with cases distributed all over city

People queueing outside a coronavirus testing centre in Hong Kong yesterday, as a spike in Covid-19 cases brought about tighter restrictions. Under the Hong Kong government's new rules, anyone who fails to comply with a Covid-19 testing notice may be
People queueing outside a coronavirus testing centre in Hong Kong yesterday, as a spike in Covid-19 cases brought about tighter restrictions. Under the Hong Kong government's new rules, anyone who fails to comply with a Covid-19 testing notice may be fined HK$2,000 (S$347).PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

HONG KONG • For the first time, the Hong Kong government has exercised its new power to make Covid-19 testing compulsory, starting with visitors to 14 dance premises after a cluster that started at a dance club in Wan Chai continued to grow.

Under the Prevention and Control of Disease (Compulsory Testing for Certain Persons) Regulation, any person who had been present at 14 dance premises during the period from Nov 1 to last Saturday must undergo a Covid-19 nucleic acid test by tomorrow.

At least 32 people have been confirmed to have Covid-19 as part of the cluster traced to the Starlight Dance Club in Wan Chai, broadcaster RTHK reported yesterday.

The premises operated as party rooms, the government said.

All party room businesses have been ordered to shut for five days from yesterday until Thursday. Live performances and dancing in bars, pubs and clubs have also been banned for the same period.

A Food and Health Bureau spokesman said yesterday: "The local epidemic situation is worsening rapidly. The number of confirmed cases of a cluster related to dancing activities and dancing venues continued to increase significantly in the past few days, with cases distributed all over the territory."

Under the Hong Kong government's new rules, anyone who fails to comply with a Covid-19 testing notice may be fined HK$2,000 (S$347). If he continues to refuse to be tested, he will face prosecution that includes a HK$25,000 fine and a six-month jail term.

Those who undergo the coronavirus test are advised to stay at home and avoid going out while waiting for the test results, to reduce the risk of transmission.

The government will provide a one-off grant of HK$5,000 to locals who test positive, to address livelihood concerns should they risk losing their income.

The measure is also aimed at encouraging people to get tested, Health Secretary Sophia Chan said.

The government is setting up another five community testing centres, adding to the four already in operation, she said.

The Food and Health Bureau said it is also working on compulsory testing for other high-risk groups, including those with Covid-19 symptoms, taxi drivers and staff of care homes for the elderly.

"The government urges all individuals who are in doubt about their own health conditions, or individuals with infection risks... to undergo testing promptly for early identification of infected persons," a bureau spokesman said.

The city yesterday reported 68 new cases, the most in three months. All but seven cases were considered to be locally transmitted while the number of cases not having an immediately identifiable source was about a dozen. BLOOMBERG

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 23, 2020, with the headline 'HK govt uses new power to enforce Covid-19 testing'. Print Edition | Subscribe