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Gov't officials eye universal COVID-19 testing to help Hong Kong return normal

Peoplewearing face masks following the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak walkat a shopping mall in Hong Kong, July 20, 2020. [Photo/Agencies]

HONG KONG - Officials of the Hong KongSpecial Administrative Region (HKSAR) government called on residents toactively participate in the upcoming universal community testing of COVID-19and expected the testing will help Hong Kong return normal at an early date.

The more people participate in thetesting, the faster will Hong Kong contain the epidemic, Chief Secretary forAdministration Matthew Cheung said Sunday in an online article.

Cheung said the testing program isaimed at screening asymptomatic patients and cutting the transmission chains ofthe virus as soon as possible.

The massive testing due to start onTuesday will be launched for free and on a voluntary basis, and the governmenthas reiterated the personal data of participants will be well protected. Asfar, more than 400,000 residents have registered for the testing.

Financial Secretary of the HKSARgovernment Paul Chan also appealed to businesses and commerce chambers toencourage their employees to take the coronavirus tests in his online blog onSunday.

Only after the invisible transmissionchains are stopped, the HKSAR government will be able to focus on reviving theeconomy and helping improve people's incomes, as well as resuming normaltravels of Hong Kong residents to the mainland and Macao, Chan said.

In the face of the COVID-19challenges, economic stimulus and relief measures of the HKSAR government hasboosted the deficit by nearly 290 billion Hong Kong dollars ($37.41 billion)and the fiscal reserves have dropped to about HK$800 billion.

Chan said the deficit increase isunsustainable and the HKSAR government has to save energy for economic andfinancial uncertainties ahead, as well as possible another round of epidemicoutbreak in the future.

Hong Kong's Center for HealthProtection reported 15 new cases on Sunday, bringing the total confirmed casesto 4,801. As far, COVID-19 has caused 88 deaths in Hong Kong, and 351 patientsare still hospitalized.