After being struck by what could be the worst outbreak that the city of Hong Kong has ever witnessed, authorities have asked the entire populace to voluntarily test themselves for COVID-19 at home for three consecutive days. 

Starting next week, over 7.4 million people will test themselves for the virus, according to authorities on Saturday. The announcement comes from Chief Executive Carrie Lam as the city continues to be in the virus’ chokehold. 

Lam said that although a “compulsory, universal test” of the population is vital, it is uncertain when that might happen. Authorities dropped the idea after a similar announcement previously resulted in panic buying. 

Caught between loosening restrictions to avoid further disruptions and Beijing’s need for a “zero-COVID” approach, authorities have been left confused on what to do next. 

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On Friday, Hong Kong lifted a ban on civilians returning from flights that took off from nine countries where COVID-19 cases have skyrocketed, including the United States and Britain. On the same day, the city recorded 5,820 new coronavirus cases. 

On the other hand, in Shanghai, officials are struggling to set a stringent lockdown on the city’s 26 million residents. The last time a large-scale lockdown was imposed was when the virus first emerged in late 2019. 

On Saturday, China recorded 2,086 confirmed cases, including 260 in Shanghai, and 7,789 asymptomatic cases out of which 6,051 were from Shanghai.

While the current outbreak is greater than the previous ones, the city is still better prepared, thanks to Omicron’s low severity.

“There is more pressure because the larger number of patients increases the task of controlling the outbreak,” said Chen Erzhen, commander of the third contingent of medical teams dispatched to Shanghai.

“But at present, Shanghai’s situation is under control and we’ll continue to treat and isolate as necessary,” Erzhen told Xinhua Daily.