Hong Kong’s new secretary for Health, Lo Chung-mau, says the region’s government is considering a more flexible approach to travel.
With Hong Kong’s new government having taken office two weeks ago, its health chief has been speaking publicly about how the region might relax the strict Covid-19 measures that have been in place since the start of the pandemic.
In June, business chambers expressed disappointment in former chief executive Carrie Lam’s refusal to ‘give in a single inch’ to calls from business groups to relax the region’s strict Covid-19 quarantine and testing measures. However, the city appears to be preparing for conditional quarantine-free travel from November, just in time for a global bankers’ summit to be held in Hong Kong.
In an interview with a local news outlet, secretary for health Lo Chung-mau said the city doesn’t need to follow mainland China’s tough Covid-19 policies because it enjoys some degree of freedom under the ‘one country, two systems’ principle.
Noting that he would not allow the city’s Covid-19 outbreak to get out of hand, Lo also floated the possibility of stopping newly arrived persons (subjected to PCR testing) from visiting venues such as bars. A code system, as used elsewhere in China, could also be used to manage social distancing. Under a yellow code, people could go to work but would be banned from high-risk settings such as care homes or places where masks are taken off.
Lo said he would still need to examine the latest data on the positive rate in Covid tests submitted on the third day of hotel quarantine by overseas arrivals before he could decide on changes to the rules, the report noted. This could lead to moving to five days of hotel quarantine followed by two days of home isolation, or even just seven days of home isolation.
The health chief said that according to government estimation, the current Covid-19 wave in Hong Kong will peak in September, with up to 10,000 patients expected to be hospitalised.