Hong Kong’s health minister Professor Sophia Chan Siu-chee does not have any “particular views” on whether the planned Legislative Council elections in September should be postponed because of the coronavirus, she said on Tuesday.
Beijing loyalists in Hong Kong have been lobbying for a delay amid the worsening Covid-19 outbreak in the city, where the total number of infections rose by another 145 cases on Monday to 2,778, and four people died, taking the number of fatalities to 22.
The continued surge prompted the government to announce a raft of new measures that take effect on Wednesday.
Get the latest insights and analysis from our Global Impact newsletter on the big stories originating in China.
Gatherings of more than two people will be banned, restaurants will be limited to only serving takeaway, and people must wear a mask in outdoor public places.
Asked if her bureau had advised authorities to postpone the elections, Chan said she did not have an opinion, and “different bureaus” would consider the matter.
“We don’t have particular views on this, because right now we need to focus on [fighting the outbreak].”
Some government lawmakers have cited the risk of Covid-19 to call for a postponement of at least a year. Their opponents have suggested their pro-establishment rivals were merely seeking a delay because they feared losing.
Riding on the momentum of its win in the district council elections last November, the opposition camp has targeted its first majority in the 70-seat legislature.
On the government’s fight against the outbreak, Chan said any new measures would take one to two weeks to be effective, as Covid-19 patients could have an incubation period of about 14 days.
“I’m calling on employers to allow their employees to work from home for the coming one to two weeks,” she said.
Describing the outbreak as severe, Chan hoped residents could tolerate the inconvenience the new measures would bring about.
Earlier this month, the government made it compulsory to wear masks in public indoor places. At the time, Chan called it a targeted approach.
On why it took another week to expand the measure to cover public outdoor places as well, just as medical experts suggested, she said the decision was made after “the latest public health assessment”.
Asked if a lockdown would be the most effective way of curbing the spread of the virus, the health minister said the more stringent a measure was, the more effective it would be. But it was not a decision that could be made easily.
Rebel City: Hong Kong’s Year of Water and Fire is a new book of essays that chronicles the political confrontation that has gripped the city since June 2019. Edited by the South China Morning Post's Zuraidah Ibrahim and Jeffie Lam, the book draws on work from the Post's newsrooms across Hong Kong, Beijing, Washington and Singapore, with unmatched insights into all sides of the conflict. Buy directly from SCMP today for HKD$198. Rebel City: Hong Kong's Year of Water and Fire is also available at major bookshops worldwide and online through Amazon, Kobo, Google Books, and eBooks.com.
More from South China Morning Post:
- Hong Kong Covid-19 third wave: do you need to wear a mask if you exercise outdoors … or should you exercise at all?
- Hong Kong third wave: record 145 Covid-19 cases trigger toughest preventive measures yet