The scientific committee under the Centre for Health Protection (CHP) has recommended giving a third dose of Covid-19 vaccine to vulnerable groups. Meanwhile, one of Hong Kong’s best-known charity events, Trailwalker, has been cancelled for the third year in a row after it failed to obtain a government exception to social distancing rules.

Representatives from the CHP committee met the press on Wednesday after a meeting with an expert advisory panel to the chief executive. A third dose of the vaccine should be administered at least four weeks from the second dose for immunocompromised patients, the committee recommended.

Photo: GovHK.

The committee also recommended that people aged 60 or above, medical workers, those who have a higher exposure risk such as cross-boundary drivers, and people with chronic illness who have received two doses of Sinovac to get an additional jab of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.

“Comirnaty [Pfizer-BioNTech] vaccine offers greater protection, but personal preference is respected,” a press statement published on Tuesday read. The committee said that the third jab for high exposure groups should be administered six months after the second dose.

The Hong Kong government’s free vaccination programme offered a choice between BioNTech and Sinovac. Numerous international tests have found the Chinese-made vaccine to be less effective than many of those developed in other countries, though it was approved by the World Health Organization in June.

Oxfam Trailwalker cancelled for 3rd time

Oxfam Hong Kong’s (OHK) annual Trailwalker, a charity event where participants attempt to complete a 100-kilometre journey across the city’s rural trails, was cancelled for a third time after authorities refused to approve the organiser’s application for an exemption to group gathering ban.

“Although we continued to respond to requests for details about preventive measures over the past few months and had not received any indication that our application would be rejected, it was unexpectedly and ultimately not approved three weeks before the event,” Oxfam said in a Facebook post posted on Wednesday.

“The government noted that given the scale of the event, OHK would not be able to separate the 4,600 people involved in the event from other hikers on the trail over the three-day period, thus leaving a potential risk for the spread of the virus.”

Oxfam Hong Kong said that they had “tentatively scheduled” an alternative version of Trailwalker for November 22 to December 12, and were awaiting government approval.

The event was cancelled in 2019 over the anti-extradition bill protests and unrest, and was initially postponed but later cancelled in 2020 over the coronavirus pandemic.

Meanwhile, over 10,000 people took part in last Sunday’s Standard Chartered marathon, where participants had to be tested within 72 hours before the race, and were only allowed to take off their masks after the race started. Police were seen surrounding runners wearing “come on Hong Kong” slogans after organisers warned against “political” slogans.

Compulsory use of tracking app

The judiciary announced on Tuesday that it will be compulsory for people entering court buildings to use the government Covid-19 contact-tracing mobile application LeaveHomeSafe  from next Monday.

Carrie Lam showing LeaveHomeSafe app. Photo: Carrie Lam via Facebook.

People aged 65 or above, or aged under 12, and those with disabilities will all be exempt from the requirement. They will have to write down on a paper slip their names, the first four digits or letters of their identification document, their contact number and the date and time of their visit. Those who cannot afford a smartphone will not be exempt, though the authorities have vowed to be flexible.

They will also have to show their identification documents for verification to judiciary staff members.

The announcement came after last week’s government decision to make the use of the app compulsory for people entering government premises starting from November.

When the app was introduced last November the government said its use would be voluntary, although officials also said it may be made mandatory “if necessary.” Some restaurants have made the app mandatory for customers in order to benefit from eased social distancing restrictions.

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.