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Hong Kong’s John Lee stresses balance in easing quarantine

Hong Kong’s new leader, John Lee, said Tuesday at his first press conference since taking office that he will ease restrictions on travelers while balancing the risks of the coronavirus outbreak overshadowing the health care system.

Hong Kong and mainland China are among the few places in the world that are still quarantining arrivals to limit the spread of the virus for two and a half years in the pandemic. Most travelers arriving in Hong Kong are required to perform a mandatory seven-day quarantine in designated hotels.

Lee, a former security official who was the only candidate in the election for Hong Kong’s chief executive, took office on Fridaysucceeding Carrie Lam.

Speaking at his first press conference before the executive board meeting on Tuesday, Lee said Hong Kong is an “international city” and he is “aware” of the need for Hong Kong to remain open and convenient for travelers.

“But it is also important that we deal with the risks at the same time so that we maintain a good balance,” he said. He told me that the city’s health secretary was assessing the data to determine how to adjust the duration of the quarantine and would formulate options to consider.

Cases of COVID-19 are up in Hong Kong, with more than 1,000 cases a day since mid-June, compared to more than a hundred a day in early May. The city recorded 1,841 new infections on Monday.

Lee also said Hong Kong has a “constitutional duty” to enact a new security law, in addition to a national security law imposed by Beijing in 2020 that eliminated most political opposition and put many democracy advocates in detention, in hiding or into exile..

The enactment of Article 23 of the Basic Law, Hong Kong’s mini-constitution, has long been controversial. When the government first attempted to draft such laws in 2003, protesters took to the streets in a mass demonstration that prompted the government to suspend its plans.

The crackdown following the 2019 protests included the reshaping of Hong Kong’s legislature. If Lee enacts Article 23, the laws will likely be passed in the body now filled with pro-Beijing lawmakers.

Lee said Hong Kong’s situation and security risk levels will be assessed before the legislation is enacted. “We are very confident that we will be able to do it well,” he said.

Lee also pledged to work on housing issues in Hong Kong – the world’s most expensive real estate market – noting that he would try to “fix short-term problems as quickly as possible” and look at how to turn available land into “spade – ready-made sites” to increase the speed and efficiency of production. housing.

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