Hong Kong’s social gathering limits will be relaxed from two to four people on Wednesday as the city’s fourth wave of Covid-19 infections eases. The new rules will take effect at midnight.
“Taking into account… the need for society as a whole to resume social and economic activities, we announced earlier to continue to relax social distancing measures in a gradual and orderly manner,” a spokesperson for the Food and Health Bureau said.
The news came as online bookings for Hong Kong’s city-wide vaccination scheme began on Tuesday. The quota for the first two weeks of the programme was “fully booked” as of Tuesday evening, according to the government website.
Members of the public who fall into priority groups were able to register to receive China’s Sinovac vaccination at five community centres and 18 Hospital Authority general out-patient clinics across the city. Jabs will be administered from Friday onwards. The five centres will be in Yuen Long, Sha Tin, Yau Tsim Mong, Kwun Tong and Wan Chai.
The remaining 24 centres across the city will administer Germany’s BioNtech vaccines, which are expected to arrive by the end of the month.
The Department of Health said on Tuesday that it will reserve second doses for citizens at the same clinic where they receive their first dose.
Priority groups include medical workers, those aged 60 or above, caretakers at elderly homes, personnel responsible for environmental hygiene, cabin crew, cross-border drivers and disciplined forces who are often in contact with citizens.
Chief Executive Carrie Lam vowed to monitor and fight against efforts to “smear” the vaccination programme. Lam said rumours circulating online are hampering the government’s efforts to advocate the “merits” of getting vaccinated against the virus.
“We have to fight against smearing and untruthful reports in the community,” Lam said amid concerns about vaccine safety. “It was reported on the internet that we did not get inoculated with the Sinovac, it was a different type [of vaccine], saying that we were not confident in the Sinovac vaccines…”
“We will be on our guard, we will monitor the situation around the clock – as soon as we spot any untruthful report, we will swiftly clarify it,” she said.
Lam, who received her vaccination on Monday along with other officials, said she had not heard of any adverse reactions from fellow colleagues following the jab. “As you can see, I feel really good I don’t feel any pain at the injection site,” she said.
An advisory panel of experts endorsed the use of Sinovac in Hong Kong last week, after the manufacturer was exempted from a requirement that it publish results of its third phase clinical trials in medical journals. The panel’s convenor, Wallace Lau, previously said the vaccine had an overall efficacy rate of 50.66 per cent, and – if the second dose of vaccine is taken after a 28-day break – the efficacy rate would increase to 62.3 per cent.
Hong Kong reported 12 new infections on Tuesday, only one of which was imported. Three of the 11 local cases were from untraceable sources.
The city has seen a total of 10,897 infections and 197 deaths in total.