Hong Kong has defended its decision to make a u-turn on travel restrictions for mainland returnees to the city by adopting Beijing’s classification of coronavirus risk levels for its travel scheme.

Officials announced on Monday that the city will adopt the risk level published by the National Health Commission to set the list of medium or high risk area in China for the Return2hk scheme.

Chief Executive Carrie Lam in her weekly press briefing ahead of the Executive Council meeting on May 25, 2021. Photo: Selina Cheng/HKFP.

Hong Kong residents returning from those areas would not be exempted from the 14-day compulsory quarantine.

Officials reversed a restriction imposed on Guangdong Province over the weekend after former chief executive Leung Chun-ying questioned the administration’s policy on Facebook.

Instead of listing the entire province as a medium risk area, the government changed its mind and said that only the building in which a Covid-19 case was found in Guangzhou would be listed as a medium risk place.

Chief Executive Carrie Lam defended her administration’s decision on Tuesday, saying that the government’s initial decision to impose restrictions on the whole province was “not very proportionate.”

“This decision to make the adjustment was made under the government’s internal adjustment mechanism, not influenced by any external pressure or by what someone said,” Lam insisted.

Cruise to nowhere

The government is in talks with cruise providers to introduce high-seas cruises on which passengers and crew members must be vaccinated, Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development Edward Yau said on Monday.

Photo: Kevin Cheng/United Social Press.

“…there are examples of cruises departing from the port, going out to the high seas and returning without calling on any ports, thereby eliminating any chance of getting the virus from another place,” said Yau.

Yau added that the government hoped that the cruises would begin in mid to late summer.

The secretary also said that the government welcomed efforts from the private sector in providing incentives to encourage citizens to be vaccinated.

“That’s why the government encourages, and is willing to promote [vaccination] with the commercial sector, business organisations, or those who care,” said Yau.

As of Monday, around 907,500 citizens were fully vaccinated, while 360,000 people have received their first dose of Covid-19 vaccines.

Hong Kong has recorded 11,834 infections and 210 deaths since the beginning of the pandemic.

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Candice Chau

Candice is a reporter at Hong Kong Free Press. She previously worked as a researcher at a local think tank. She has a BSocSc in Politics and International Relations from the University of Manchester and a MSc in International Political Economy from London School of Economics.