Mainland Chinese trucks have been bringing in Covid-related medical goods and food supplies without local licence plates, authorities have confirmed. According to Chief Executive Carrie Lam, the vehicles were exempt from the usual regulations under emergency laws as the city is in a state of “war” with the fifth-wave coronavirus outbreak.

mainland truck
Lorries were seen without local licence plates at the Kwai Tsing Container Terminals. Photo: Video screenshot, via GovHK.

On Friday, the Hong Kong government released a statement confirming a trial for mainland truck drivers to transfer goods directly to designated cargo yards in Hong Kong. In an accompanying video, some mainland-licenced trucks were shown arriving at Hong Kong’s Kwai Tsing Container Terminals without local plates.

The statement said that the new arrangement was to “reduce virus transmission risk” in both the mainland and Hong Kong and to “ensure smooth cross-boundary land transport.”

On Sunday, 17 million residents in Shenzhen were locked down as cases surged across China.

When iCable asked about the unlicensed vehicles during Sunday morning’s regular press briefing, Lam said she had authorised the Chief Secretary to grant exemptions under the city’s emergency regulations. “In this time of war, every action has to be quick. [We] can no longer follow the way of thinking during ordinary times and abide by typical rules.”

Carrie Lam
Hong Kong’s Chief Executive Carrie Lam attendS a press briefing on the Covid-19 situation on March 11, 2022. Photo: GovHK.

The chief executive did not directly address the reporter’s questions about whether such drivers would be legally responsible should any accidents occur. Instead, she said the most important question to ask was: “who are these cross-border mainland lorries here in Hong Kong for?”

She said the cargo trucks were “for the citizens of Hong Kong” and “they offer us fresh food items and other anti-epidemic supplies necessary to our daily lives.”

The city’s leader also said she did not presently know how many vehicles have been exempt from local regulations.

‘Overpriced’ exhaust fans

To allow regular hospital wards to isolate Covid-19 patients, the Hospital Authority has purchased 1,500 ventilation fans from China priced between HK$1,000 to HK$ 2,000 each. However, local media noted out that the same models were available for approximately HK$197 on the supplier’s official website.

During Saturday’s afternoon Covid-19 briefing, Sara Ho, chief manager at the Hospital Authority, was asked whether public hospitals had “overpaid.”

Hospital Authority exhaust fans
The model of exhaust fans bought by the Hospital Authority was available for less than HK$200 online. Photo: Screenshot.

In response, Ho said related news reports were “incomprehensive” as they did not consider whether the product specifications, quality, supply, logistics or post-sale services offered on online platforms would meet the Hospital Authority’s “strict requirements.”

Ho said the authority had learnt from the supplier via contractors that the model was out of stock locally and bulk purchasing would normally take one and a half to three months. She added that the products were made available thanks to efforts by the local and national authorities, lawmakers and the city’s logistics sector.

The Secretary for Food and Health Sophia Chan told reporters on Sunday morning that -although the government was not directly involved in purchasing the exhaust fans – she hoped the public would understand that they often had to “handle special cases with special methods” under current conditions, “to get the supplies earlier [in order to] safeguard health and life among citizens.”

“Now [we are] at war, all purchasing was urgent,” Chan said.

No booster needed for recovered patients

The Joint Science Committee under the Centre for Health Protection and the chief executive’s expert advisory team announced updated Covid-19 vaccination recommendations on Sunday.

covid vaccine centre sun yat sen memorial park
Sun Yat Sen Memorial Park Sports Centre in Sai Ying Pun, which has been converted into a Covid-19 vaccination centre. Photo: Hillary Leung/HKFP

Going forwards, those without a compromised immune system who have recovered from a Covid infection will no longer need to receive a booster shot.

YouTube video

In other words, those who received two Covid-19 vaccine shots before infection are not required to obtain an extra shot, whilst those who were not fully vaccinated only need to receive up to two jabs.

On Sunday, the city reported 32,430 new Covid-19 cases and 264 deaths. As of Saturday, Hong Kong has seen a total of 674,447 infections and 3,729 casualties since the beginning of the pandemic.

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Peter Lee is a reporter for HKFP. He was previously a freelance journalist at Initium, covering political and court news. He holds a Global Communication bachelor degree from CUHK.