Hong Kong is tweaking Covid-19 rules again, two weeks ahead of a rumoured visit by China’s Xi Jinping for the July 1 Handover anniversary celebrations.

Chief Executive Carrie Lam said the risk of death or severe symptoms was low due to high immunity following the Omicron outbreak, but it was important to avoid “large-scale eruptions of cases.”

  • Daily rapid tests will continue until mid-August at schools, Lam said, as she urged them to reduce activities where masks are taken off.
  • The government will give out more free rapid tests to residents.
  • Close contacts at elderly care homes will be sent to quarantine camps. Should an outbreak occur at a care home, those who are not infected or at risk will be sent to another care home. The vaccine requirement for staff will be increased from two to three jabs. All staff, vaccinated or not, will need to do a PCR tests every fortnight.
  • Lam said her end-of-term dinners with top officials and lawmakers have been axed in light of the pandemic and looming Father’s Day and July 1 celebrations. “I’m setting an example,” she added.

Lam denied rules were being tightened.

Chief Executive Carrie Lam met the press on June 17. Photo: Lea Mok/HKFP.

When asked whether there was a timetable for care home staff to get a third dose of a Covid-19 vaccine, Secretary for Labour and Welfare Law Chi-kwong said the government was yet to confirm the details, adding that many people have already received three jabs.

Law also said if quarantine spaces were needed for care home residents, the AsiaWorld-Expo and Kai Tak facilities could be made quickly available.

Uptick in cases

The number of daily cases edged back into the thousands this week, spurred by bar clusters on Hong Kong Island. As of Thursday, revellers must now show a photo of a negative rapid Covid test to enter bars or clubs.

On Tuesday, Lam said she was aware of the pleas from the public, especially from the business sector, to further ease social distancing measures, including relaxing quarantine and testing requirements. But she said the government had “stood its ground,” and decided the current rules would remain in place until June 29, with further arrangements to be made by incoming leader John Lee, who will be sworn in on July 1.

Hong Kong registered 1,179 new Covid-19 infections on Thursday, of which 94 were imported. No new related deaths were reported. In all, the city has seen 9,392 deaths and over 1.2 million cases.

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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.