HONG KONG — Carrie Lam, the chief executive of Hong Kong, announced on Monday that she would not seek a second term, after a huge surge in coronavirus infections left the global financial hub with one of the highest virus death rates in the world.
Mrs. Lam announced her plans at a news conference, citing family reasons.
“My family is my priority and they think it is time for me to go back home. That is my only consideration,” Mrs. Lam said, adding that she had already informed Beijing of her decision.
Mrs. Lam has been criticized by Hong Kong residents and pro-Beijing lawmakers for mixed messaging amid the city’s fifth outbreak, its biggest and most devastating since the beginning of the pandemic. Officials wavered on citywide mass testing, at one point indicating that the city might have to lock down residents, a prospect that triggered anxiety and panic buying.
As cases surged in February, Beijing stepped in, sending health workers, epidemiologists and technicians for testing. Hong Kong’s inability to get cases under control prompted warnings from China’s most senior leaders, including Xi Jinping. It also caused an exodus of the city’s expatriate community.
Over the past few months, as Hong Kong tried to hew to China’s zero-Covid policy, Mrs. Lam doubled down on social distancing measures and an effort to make the city’s 7.4 million people test for the virus. Amid criticism from Beijing and local lawmakers, she later backed off from mass testing. Then, in late March, said the city would begin to lift a flight ban on nine countries and relax restrictions, after officials indicated the worst of the latest outbreak was likely over.
Hong Kong has reported nearly 1.2 million Covid-19 cases and 8,172 deaths, most of them tied to the most recent outbreak, and many of them among Hong Kong’s older and unvaccinated population.
The city’s fatality rate from the virus was at one point among the highest in the world, at three per 100,000 residents, in large part because so many older Hong Kongers were not vaccinated.