Hong Kong has been excluded from a list of places on a trial programme to revive Japanese tourism following the Covid-19 pandemic, despite being a major market in recent years.

Small group package tours from Australia, Singapore, Thailand and the US will be allowed in the first phase of the country’s tourism trial this month.

gray concrete pathway between red and black pillars
Japan. File Photo: Vincent M.A. Janssen via Pexels.com.

“This venture will allow us to verify compliance and emergency responses for infection prevention and formulate guidelines for travel agencies and accommodation operators to keep in mind,” Japan’s Tourism Agency said in a press release.

Sinovac barrier

One barrier to welcoming Hongkongers may be the use of the China-made Sinovac vaccine. The World Health Organisation recognised the jab for emergency use last June.

Though it offers good protection against serious illness, Sinovac has a slightly lower efficacy rate than alternatives, according to experts.

Hong Kong’s Travel Industry Council Chair Gianna Hsu said she hopes to meet Japanese tourism officials to discuss whether Hong Kong can be included in the next phase of the reopening.

“We will tell them we hope they will accept Sinovac because many Hong Kong people are vaccinated with it. We hope they won’t be prevented from travelling to Japan,” she said, according to RTHK.

Sinovac recipients continue to face travel restrictions. According to DW-TV, ten European countries currently do not recognise the jab, including France, Germany and Italy.

vaccine rate
Hong Kong residents who have received two jabs, as of Wednesday. Photo: GovHK.

According to Hong Kong government data as of Wednesday, 42.7 per cent of double-jabbed residents received Sinovac, whilst the rest received the widely-recognised German-developed BioNTech vaccine.

Hong Kong has reported 1.2 million cases of Covid-19 since the onset of the pandemic, and 9,361 deaths.

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Tom is the editor-in-chief and founder of Hong Kong Free Press. He has a BA in Communications and New Media from Leeds University and an MA in Journalism from the University of Hong Kong. He has contributed to the BBC, Euronews, Al-Jazeera and others.