President Xi Jinping called for Hong Kong officials to take "all necessary measures” in getting the city’s virus outbreak under control, an unusually direct intervention that could pave the way for stricter measures and possibly a broader lockdown in the Asian financial hub.

The Chinese leader said Chief Executive Carrie Lam’s government should make stabilizing the COVID-19 situation its top priority, the state-run Wen Wei Po and Ta Kung Pao newspapers reported Wednesday, without saying where they got the information.

The message, which leaves the city’s leaders even less room to deviate from China’s "COVID zero" policy, came a day after Lam said she had no plans for a citywide lock down, although she acknowledged the omicron variant outbreak had overwhelmed the government’s capacity to respond.