HONG KONG: Seven Chinese health officials arrived in Hong Kong on Sunday (Aug 2), the first members of a 60-person team that will carry out widespread COVID-19 testing in the territory as it races to halt a third wave of illness.
The initiative marks the first time mainland health officials have assisted Hong Kong in its battle to control the epidemic.
The city has reported around 3,500 coronavirus cases and 34 deaths since January, far lower than many other global metropolitan centres. But the daily number of new infections has been in three digits for the past 12 days.
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Members of the testing team, co-ordinated by the Chinese government, are mostly from public hospitals in Guangdong province, China's National Health Commission said.
A group of local Hong Kong councillors said on Sunday that some local residents fear China may use their presence as an opportunity to collect DNA samples for surveillance purposes.
The territory's government denied the claims, saying virus testing would only be conducted in the city and samples would not be transported to the mainland.
Leader Carrie Lam said on Saturday the former British colony asked for help from the central government due to the resurgence in cases. She said the government was studying whether everyone in Hong Kong could be tested, local broadcaster RTHK reported on Saturday.
The Chinese territory saw a surge in locally transmitted coronavirus cases in July and introduced a raft of tightening measures including restricting gatherings to two people and mandating face masks in all outdoor public spaces.
Hong Kong has reported around 3,400 coronavirus cases and 33 deaths since January, far lower than other major cities around the world. But the daily number of new infections has been in the triple-digits for the past 11 days.
Beijing recently imposed a security law that critics say undermines Hong Kong's autonomy, which was guaranteed under a "one country, two systems" formula when the city returned to Chinese control from Britain in 1997.