Hong Kong postpones its Covid vaccine mandate

The city has maintained strict controls to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, requiring the use of a contact-tracing app in public places
Last Updated : 05 January 2022, 03:02 IST
Last Updated : 05 January 2022, 03:02 IST

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Hong Kong residents must have at least one coronavirus vaccine shot to enter restaurants beginning late next month, Carrie Lam, the city’s chief executive, said Tuesday, as the city races to stamp out the spread of the omicron variant.

The new requirements, which were to begin this month, will instead start February 24, after Lunar New Year celebrations have ended, to give businesses and residents time to prepare, Lam said. She added that the rule could be expanded to include other public spaces, such as museums and libraries.

The city has maintained strict controls to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, requiring the use of a contact-tracing app in public places, forcing arrivals from overseas to undergo as much as three weeks of quarantine, locking down high-rise buildings and ordering mass testing of residents to mitigate the threat of local spread of omicron.

But Hong Kong’s vaccine drive has been set back by residents who are suspicious of the government and its unpopular leader. The city has fully vaccinated only about 69% of its population, according to the government.

The city announced the toughened requirements as officials were searching for six diners at a restaurant linked to an omicron cluster affecting more than 300 people.

The six were among those who had lunch at the Moon Palace restaurant in the upscale Fashion Walk mall in the Kowloon Tong district on December 27, officials said. The others were sent to a government facility to quarantine.

Health officials say they believe that a flight attendant for Cathay Pacific Airways who had ignored isolation rules after returning from the United States infected his father and another person while dining at Moon Palace that day. The airline said it had fired the unnamed flight attendant and one other Cathay employee as a result of the outbreak.

Hong Kong recorded 13 new coronavirus cases Tuesday. So far, six omicron cases have been connected to the restaurant; the city has recorded 102 cases of the variant in total.

Lam’s government has made resumption of normal travel with mainland China a priority, and she said Tuesday that the omicron cases would most likely delay plans to ease travel restrictions between Hong Kong and the mainland.

“I would not deny that that has an impact, which means that we would have to wait another while before we could put in place the very sought-after resumption of normal travel between Hong Kong and the mainland,” she said.

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Published 05 January 2022, 03:02 IST

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