Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor meets with members of the media at the Central Government Office on June 1, 2021. (CALVIN NG / CHINA DAILY)
HONG KONG – The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region government will not restrict the entry of unvaccinated residents to certain premises, in the event of another wave of infections, if the city achieves a “satisfactory vaccination rate” by August, Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor said Tuesday.
In a press briefing before the weekly Executive Council meeting, Lam said the government was aiming for a “protective barrier” against the possibility of a fifth wave of COVID-19 cases.
The HKSAR government announced on Monday that it will tighten boarding and quarantine rules for people arriving from Cambodia, Thailand, and Vietnam to prevent the spread of mutant COVID-19 strains
“If by the end of August, there is a satisfactory vaccination rate to create a good protective barrier, and should there be a fifth wave, then we don’t have to put in place these proposed measures because we already have the protective barrier we need,” Lam said.
The government earlier said that it will study whether people who have not been vaccinated against COVID-19 should be restricted from entering certain premises that are at higher risk of large-scale infection, in the event of another wave of the pandemic.
Those premises would include restaurants, schools, construction sites, libraries, cinemas and sports venues.
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“We want to ensure that teachers, staff members and students who have been inoculated will be protected when they go back to school to have their classes. This is not a threat to get people to get vaccinated,” Lam said.
Lam also said that Hong Kong was not creating a new quarantine regime when it decided to allow vaccinated senior executives from about 500 companies included in indexes like the Hang Seng to seek permission to travel in and out of the city without needing to follow current quarantine requirements.
"From the very beginning, when the government passed regulations to restrict arrivals from the mainland and other parts of the world…there is always this exemption scheme that will empower the government to exclude certain categories of arrivals from the prevailing quarantine arrangements," she said.
Lam added that Chief Secretary for Administration Matthew Cheung Kin-chung has been granting exemptions “either by categories or by individuals” for more than a year.
"The time has come for us to consider the revival of Hong Kong’s economy because as you will realize, the situation has far stabilized since the fourth wave hit us," she said.
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Lam said the Financial Services and the Treasury Bureau, in consultation with regulatory authorities, proposed that the city provide an alternative arrangement for these senior executives “so that they can continue to conduct very essential economic activities in Hong Kong."
Meanwhile, the HKSAR government announced on Monday that it will tighten boarding and quarantine rules for people arriving from Cambodia, Thailand, and Vietnam to prevent the spread of mutant COVID-19 strains.
In a statement, the government said it will include Cambodia, Thailand, and Vietnam in the list of “Group B” or “high-risk” places starting June 4. On the other hand, the risk category from the United Kingdom was downgraded from “very high-risk” to “high-risk” due to the improving pandemic situation in that country.
"The government will continue to closely monitor the epidemic situation of various places, the prevalence of new virus variants, vaccination progress, and changes in the volume of cross-boundary passenger traffic, and will adjust the boarding and compulsory quarantine requirements for persons arriving at Hong Kong from relevant places as the situation warrants," a government spokesman was quoted as saying in the statement.
The government said all persons who have stayed in “high-risk” places on the day of boarding or the preceding 14 days will have to present at boarding a negative result proof of a nucleic acid test for COVID-19 conducted within 72 hours before departure as well as the confirmation of a room reservation in a designated quarantine hotel in Hong Kong.
On arrival at Hong Kong, they will be tested at the airport and, on confirmation of negative test results, will then be required to stay at their designated quarantine hotel.
Unvaccinated travelers from high-risk places will be quarantined for 21 days and should undergo four virus tests. Those who are fully vaccinated should stay at their quarantine hotel for 14 days, get tested three times, and then monitor their condition for seven days before undergoing another test on the 16th and 19th day of arrival at Hong Kong.