Starting Wednesday, recovered Covid-19 patients discharged from Hong Kong hospitals will have to undergo 14 days of quarantine, the government announced.

Those who meet discharge criteria, which include testing negative twice with two Covid-19 tests administered at least 24 hours apart, will be sent to the North Lantau Hospital Hong Kong Infection Control Centre via point-to-point transport from the hospital they were treated in.

The North Lantau Hospital Hong Kong Infection Control Centre
The North Lantau Hospital Hong Kong Infection Control Centre. Photo: GovHK.

The latest arrangement was part of the administration’s attempt to maintain the “zero infection” strategy, a government spokesperson from the Food and Health Bureau said in a press statement released on Tuesday.

“As patients who have recovered from infection recently may still carry the virus, the latest arrangement would further reduce the risk of such patients bringing the virus into the community to a minimum,” the press statement read.  “It would also lower the risk of virus spreading in the community due to possible re-positive situation.”

Hong Kong has recorded 12,331 cases and 213 deaths since the beginning of the pandemic over a year ago.

Updated vaccination requirements

Chief Executive Carrie Lam said on Tuesday that the city will further tighten Covid-19 travel restrictions as Hong Kong was in talks with mainland China about reopening its borders. Lam has made it clear the city will open up to the mainland before opening up to international travel.

The government also updated the vaccination requirements for incoming travellers aged 12 to 17. From Friday onwards, they will have to have received one dose of Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine at least 14 days before their arrival in the city.

Previously, all incoming travellers from high-risk countries, who must be Hong Kong residents, had to be fully vaccinated with two doses of vaccine before they were allowed to return to Hong Kong.

Hong Kong international airport
File photo: Candice Chau/HKFP.

A government spokesperson said that the update was made after a scientific committee under the Centre for Health Protection and an expert advisory panel to the chief executive balanced “the risk of the related side effect and benefit” of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.

Hong Kong residents who could not receive a second dose of vaccine because of health reasons will also be allowed to travel to Hong Kong from high risk regions if they present a certificate from a medical practitioner proving their condition.

They will still have to undergo 21 days of compulsory quarantine in one of the city’s designated hotels.

Those who are not fully vaccinated because of medical reasons will have to undergo 21 days of quarantine if they arrive from medium-risk countries, or 14 days in quarantine if they come from low-risk areas.

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Hong Kong has one of the strictest quarantine requirements in the world. Ben Cowling, a University of Hong Kong infectious disease and epidemiology expert, told HKFP in September that the quarantine period for fully vaccinated travellers from high-risk areas was unnecessarily long.

As of Tuesday, 4,597,500 people in Hong Kong have received at least one dose of Covid-19 vaccine, of whom 4,401,900 were fully vaccinated.

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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.