The issue of relaxing Covid-19 travel rules is under discussion with Beijing, Hong Kong’s newly-inaugurated Chief Executive John Lee said on Sunday. He added that the number of infection cases should be curbed, but “not necessarily” with citywide compulsory testing

More nucleic acid tests should be conducted, as rapid antigen tests would provide a “false sense of security” since they are not as sensitive as nucleic acid tests, said Lee on TVB.

Hong Kong Chief Executive John Lee on TVB on July 3, 2022. Photo: TVB, via video screenshot.

When asked if curbing Covid-19 case numbers would mean universal compulsory testing, the chief executive said that targeted compulsory testing could also achieve the goal.

“…what is the goal of compulsory universal testing? It’s really only for the beginning or the end of the pandemic, right? Now we can see that compulsory testing can also reach our target, and there are also other complementary mechanisms,” said Lee.

The city’s previous plans to conduct citywide testing earlier this year caused panic-buying and shortages amid the fifth wave the pandemic, the worse outbreak that Hong Kong experienced since 2020.

The previous administration, led by Carrie Lam, eventually suspended arrangements for universal testing following the visit of a  mainland health expert in March.

Quarantine-free travel

Lee also said on the TVB show that his administration was discussing with mainland authorities the possibility of relaxing quarantine rules, adding that it was not mutually exclusive with resuming international travel.

Aircrafts in the Hong Kong International Airport during the Covid-19 pandemic. Photo: GovHK.

“We will do whichever is possible, I think they are not necessarily mutually exclusive – if they are coming from overseas, and we can have a more precise way to ensure that the inconvenience to these people is minimised…” said Lee.

Close contact with Xi

Hong Kong lawmaker Steven Ho tested positive for Covid-19 on Saturday, two days after he took a group photo with China’s leader Xi Jinping ahead of the city’s 25th anniversary of the handover back to China.

Steven Ho pictured directly behind China’s leader Xi Jinping (centre) with representatives from various sectors on June 30, 2022. Photo: GovHK.

Ho announced his test result in a Facebook post published on Sunday. The pro-Beijing lawmaker from the DAB said that his test result from last Thursday was negative, and that he did not take part in any activities on July 1.

A photo from the government showed that Ho was standing directly behind Xi in a group photo last Thursday. Lee and Lam were also in the photo.

Officials and lawmakers invited to meet Xi were told to avoid large gatherings ahead of July 1, and were required undergo “closed-loop arrangements,” which included spending a night in a hotel before the day.

Hong Kong has recorded 1,252,170 Covid-19 infections and 9,405 deaths since the beginning of the pandemic over two years ago.

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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.