HONG KONG – The authorities here have cut short the compulsory quarantine period in designated hotels for visitors from low-risk countries, including Singapore, from 21 days to 14 from Friday (April 9).
Along with those departing New Zealand and Australia, travellers from Singapore will have to self-monitor for Covid-19 symptoms after they leave quarantine and take their body temperature for another seven days.
They will also have to undergo mandatory testing on the 19th day after their arrival in the territory.
The new rules, which also apply to Hong Kong residents, come as the pandemic in the city is being brought under control, although health experts have urged caution following the long Easter and Qing Ming holidays.
In a separate development on Friday, Secretary for Food and Health Sophia Chan announced that Hong Kong would delay shipments of AstraZeneca’s Covid-19 vaccine this year, as concerns mount globally over possible links between it and very rare cases of blood clots.
Hong Kong had ordered 7.5 million doses of the vaccine from the British-Swedish company and they were scheduled to arrive in the second half of 2021.
Professor Chan assured the public that there are sufficient vaccine stocks, with a total of 15 million doses of Germany’s Pfizer-BioNTech and China’s Sinovac – the only two available in the city now.
“Even if we have signed a pre-purchase agreement with AstraZeneca, we believe that it will not need to be supplied to Hong Kong this year so as not to cause a waste when the vaccine is still in short supply globally,” she said.
More than 700,000 doses of the Covid-19 vaccine have been administered to the city’s 7.5 million population so far, a figure Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam said was unsatisfactory.
The slow take-up rate is due mainly to scepticism about the vaccines.
Reports of adverse reactions to jabs, including facial paralysis, heart palpitations and headaches, have dented public confidence in the vaccination programme.
The city has recorded 15 deaths following vaccination but an expert panel has ruled out any direct links to the jabs.
The recent temporary suspension of BioNTech vaccines due to packaging defects has also fed the scepticism .
Hong Kong has so far registered more than 11,500 Covid-19 cases, with 205 deaths. There were 14 new infections on Friday, of which only two are local.