Hong Kong’s government has announced that more groups of workers must get vaccinated or face compulsory testing at their own expense even though the city has gone for 56 days without a locally transmitted Covid infection.

The new rules announced Monday apply to civil servants, care home workers, school employees and Hospital Authority staff. Existing measures such as the four-person limit on outdoor gatherings and restaurant restrictions have been extended until August 18.

Carrie Lam Covid press conference
(From left) Secretary for Labour and Welfare Law Chi-kwong, Secretary for Food and Health Sophia Chan, Chief Executive Carrie Lam, Secretary for the Civil Servant Patrick Nip and Secretary for Education Kevin Yeung meeting the press on August 2, 2021. Photo: Candice Chau/HKFP.

Officials also announced a new quarantine scheme for incoming travellers, with countries re-categorised into three groups: high, medium, and low risk.

Only vaccinated Hong Kong residents will be allowed to enter the city from high-risk areas, while only Hong Kong residents and vaccinated non-residents from medium-risk areas will be allowed entry.

Chief Executive Carrie Lam said that in future, at a date to be announced, all incoming travellers would have to present a negative result from a Covid-19 test taken within 72 hours of boarding.

The chief executive also announced that all workers in contact with incoming travellers will also have to get vaccinated. “There is simply no room for complacency,” she said in answer to a question.

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“Because Hong Kong is a very well connected international city, so the world around us is facing this challenge of another major rebound…,” said Lam in reference to the spread of the more infectious Delta variant.

“So with that in mind, if we start to relax or to open our borders without subjecting passengers arriving in Hong Kong to any quarantine, then we are putting the whole community at risk, we are sort of defeating the many, many efforts made by many, many people over many many months in fighting Covid-19.”

Other measures

The government also announced it was considering extending the operations of its community vaccination centres for another month into October. Secretary for the Civil Service Patrick Nip said walk-in vaccination services would be extended to those aged 60 or above.

Schools will continue half-day face-to-face teaching next month when the new school year starts, but fully vaccinated pupils will be allowed to take part in non-academic activities such as sports training.

Testing requirements would be tightened for workers in restaurants that close at 10:00 p.m. Staff members will be required to take a weekly instead of a fortnightly test.

Secretary for Food and Health Sophia Chan said there was no urgent need for citizens to receive a third “booster shot” vaccine dose, but the joint scientific committee would review this issue when it receives more data.

Hong Kong reported three coronavirus infections on Monday, all imported. The city has escaped the worst of the pandemic, with 11,991 cases and 212 deaths since the beginning.

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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.