(Bloomberg) -- Hong Kong must not “lie flat” in its battle with Covid-19, the city’s new leader John Lee said, echoing mainland China’s rejection of the “living with the virus” pandemic policy.

“Regarding anti-epidemic strategies, I do not agree with lying flat, allowing infection numbers to increase arbitrarily, as there will be risks of serious and fatal case number increasing proportionally, when the base number increases,” Lee said Wednesday at his first question and answer session at the city’s Legislative Council since taking office. 

Hong Kong must continue to achieve the early identification, isolation and treatment of cases, he added, while ruling out reverting back to stricter travel curbs -- the city previously imposed 21 day hotel quarantines on arrivals. Lee said the city must pay the “smallest price for the biggest effect” in stopping case numbers currently at about 2,000 a day from rising. 

READ: Xi Warns Against ‘Herd Immunity,’ Vows to Stick With Covid Zero

The security-minded leader’s language echoed that of President Xi Jinping, who last week instructed mainland officials that strategies as “herd immunity” and “lying flat” would risk too many lives in the world’s most populous country. Xi’s comments came during a trip to Wuhan, the central Chinese city where the virus first emerged in late 2019, days before he made a rare trip to Hong Kong to inaugurate Lee and his government on Friday. 

In China, to “lie flat” is a catchphrase for encouraging inaction, which in the pandemic context is equated with the living with the virus philosophy favored by the US and many Western democracies. 

Hong Kong’s new administration has inherited the problem that plagued former Chief Executive Carrie Lam’s final years in office: how to balance demands from the city’s business community to open international borders with Beijing’s requirement to limit virus cases in line with its strict Covid Zero policy.

Lee reiterated that his government wanted to facilitate greater travel while keeping case numbers low, to minimize deaths. He said border talks with the mainland would be “pragmatic.” The former police officer said he would announce more policies at his annual October address.

©2022 Bloomberg L.P.