Asia Today: Hong Kong increasing coronavirus testing

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Teachers check dividers on desks in a class ahead of school reopening at Junghwa Girls High School in Daegu, South Korea, Tuesday, May 19, 2020. South Korean Vice Health Minister Kim Gang-lip urged vigilance to maintain hard-won gains against the virus and called for education officials to double check preventive measures with high-school seniors returning to school on Wednesday. (Kim Hyun-tae/Yonhap via AP)

BANGKOK – Hong Kong’s leader says the city is ramping up testing for the coronavirus, especially for workers at the busy international airport and caregivers at homes for the elderly and disabled.

Carrie Lam said Tuesday that tests will be increased from 4,500 to 7,000 daily, with both the government health department and university laboratories taking part.

Hong Kong has gone several days without reporting new local infections, but a recent family cluster has increased concerns about those who show no symptoms passing the virus on to others, which the authorities hope can be remedied by increased testing.

Hong Kong on Tuesday also confirmed the extension of social distancing measures for two more weeks until June 4, meaning they will be in effect during the annual commemoration of the June 4, 1989, crackdown on pro-democracy protests in Beijing's Tiananmen Square that is normally marked with a rally and march in Hong Kong.

A Mother’s Day march by the opposition camp was banned last week, with critics saying the government was seeking to use social distancing measures to squelch political gatherings and free speech.

“There is no political consideration at all related to certain anniversaries or political gatherings. Our only consideration is related to public safety and public health,” Lam said Tuesday before the decision was announced.

Hong Kong, a densely populated city of more than 7 million people just across the border from mainland China, has recorded just 1,055 COVID-19 cases and four deaths.

In other developments in the Asia-Pacific region: