Hong Kong will review COVID-19 restrictions as cases decline

FILE - Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam speaks during a news conference at the government headquarters in Hong Kong, Wednesday, March 9, 2022. Hong Kong's chief executive said Sunday, March 20, that the government would consider lifting strict social distancing measures as new infections in the city continued trending downward.(Peter Parks/Pool Photo via AP, File) (Peter Parks, AFP)

TAIPEI – Hong Kong's leader said Sunday that the government would consider lifting strict social distancing measures as new COVID-19 infections in the city continued trending downward.

“I wouldn’t promise now that there’s room for adjustment,” Chief Executive Carrie Lam said. “But following a review, we have a duty to account for the findings in this review and the direction we will take.”

Hong Kong is in the middle of a massive outbreak, recording over 1 million total cases in the city of 7.4 million. The city has been hit hard, with mortuaries full as they try to cope with a high number of deaths. Hong Kong has so far refrained from a strict city-wide lockdown like those that China regularly imposes to control the spread of the virus.

But new infections in the city have been declining. In early March, Hong Kong reported more than 50,000 new infections in one day. On Saturday, it recorded 16,583 new cases.

"Having gone through the peak that you have seen here ... I think a responsible government should regularly and vigorously review these measures, to see whether there is room for adjustment,” Lam said.

Lam said she would present the findings on Monday.

A vast majority of Hong Kong's COVID-19 deaths have been among those not fully vaccinated, with many in the elderly population. The city has reported 5,437 deaths as of Saturday's data, which have far outstripped the death toll in China at 4,638.

Hong Kong, although a part of China, is a special administrative region and counts its death toll separately.

Lam warned that the city could still see a resurgence in infections.

“The COVID situation is still severe although we have hit the peak apparently and there’s a downward trend,” said Lam. “However, from sewage surveillance, we can see there can be a possibility of rebound.”