At a press conference on 27 January (Thursday), Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam announced that compulsory quarantine for new arrivals into the city will be shortened while extending other restrictions in the SAR.
As of 5 February 2022, the compulsory quarantine period for inbound travellers from overseas places will be adjusted to reduced from the current 21 days to 14 days, the Hong Kong SAR government has announced. Travellers will still be required to quarantine in a designated quarantine hotel followed by a seven-day self monitoring period with a number of compulsory tests, although they will be able to move around freely in the city.
Among the announcements, place-specific flight bans for Australia, Canada, France, India, Pakistan, the Philippines, the United Kingdom, and the United States of America have been extended to at least 18 February 2022. While the washout period to arrive via another country has been adjusted from 21 to 14 days.
The business community has been calling on the government to shorten entry requirements as it is taking a toll on international businesses in the city. Lam denied the shortened quarantine was under pressure from businesses, rather, she said the decision is based on science.
“Omicron’s incubation period is relatively short. So we have, based on this science, already shortened the quarantine period for close contacts of confirmed cases …from 21 days to 14 days, about a week ago," Lam said at a press conference. “So there is no logic or no consistency if we still impose the 21 days on arrivals. They are not even close contacts. They are arrivals from a country which may have more transmissions.”
The suspension of face-to-face classes at schools would now last until 21 February 2022, while a vaccine pass requirement is meant to come into affect from 24 February 2022, wherein 70% of all people entering a school premise are required to be vaccinated.
"In view of the implementation of 'vaccine pass' arrangements at schools on February 24, we strongly urge unvaccinated school staff, persons providing on-campus services, parents and visitors to get vaccinated as soon as possible, otherwise they will not be allowed to enter the school premises," spokesperson for the Education Bureau said in a press release. "Eligible students should also get vaccinated as early as possible to protect themselves and their family members, and construct a more effective protective barrier for both schools and the community."
Hong Kong chief executive said a 90% vaccination rate is required for any changes to the city's "dynamic-zero" COVID strategy.
During the same conference, Lam also announced that the governments plans for a "vaccine bubble" had been rebranded to "vaccine pass". The current plans for the vaccine pass pertain to about 15 categories of of premises including restaurants, gyms, and beauty parlours. The government plans to extend this to include more indoor premises.
“And beyond the statutory schedule, we can also do it for government premises. So entry into the Central Government Offices in Tamar and Leisure & Cultural Services Department libraries will, from a date onwards, be subject to a vaccine pass,” Lam said.
The government's Leave Home Safe app would also be updated to automatically show the user's vaccination status to help venues operators to check compliance.
Lam also stressed that the government would make sure these is enough lead time for people to get vaccinated. “Just for argument’s sake, we will probably, in time to come, expand this vaccine pass requirement from one dose to two doses, and (then) to three doses. So every time, we will allow sufficient time for those who have not taken the second dose or the third dose to be able to (get vaccinated) - (so) at least they have a chance," said Lam.
"If the duration is too short, they (will not) have (enough) time, then that is not fair. So every time, we will make sure that they have enough time to get vaccinated.”
Image / Hong Kong SAR