With Hong Kong under pressure to further ease all Covid-19 entry requirements and adopt a “0+0” arrangement – meaning no quarantine and no self-monitoring period for incoming travellers – one Beijing loyalist has said the city has all but embraced the 0+0 policy, just not in name.
Under the current “0+3” measure, international arrivals do not need to undergo compulsory quarantine but must adhere to a three-day “medical surveillance” period, during which they are barred from certain venues, such as restaurants, bars and gyms. Inbound travellers must also take and report the results of a total of 11 Covid tests in their first week in the city.
Lo Man-tuen, vice-chair of the All-China Federation of Returned Overseas Chinese, wrote in a Ming Pao op-ed published on Tuesday that the central and Hong Kong governments understood people’s wishes for a complete relaxation of travel rules. Hong Kong has been “refining” its 0+3 policy, he said, and trying to eliminate as many restrictions as possible.
“In fact, the ‘0+3’ arrangement we have now is almost like ‘0+0’,” Lo wrote.
Lo cited sources who said that retaining the 0+3 measure was a thought-out move, as Hong Kong had to “take the mainland’s perspective into consideration.”
“If Hong Kong were to rename its arrivals policy ‘0+0,’ the mainland may think Hong Kong had ‘completely lets its guard down.’ [If this were the case,] when Hong Kong asks the mainland to make travelling across the border for Hongkongers more convenient, it will be more difficult,” Lo wrote.
The Beijing heavyweight added that the central government “greatly supported” Hong Kong’s easing of quarantine measures, and that the city’s policy amendments acted as a reference for the mainland. The mainland started to ease some restrictions this month as well, Lo said.
‘Zero plus whatever’
On Tuesday, when asked about the government’s plan to roll out the 0+0 arrangement, Chief Executive John Lee said he had stopped describing Hong Kong’s quarantine policy as “zero plus whatever.”
“Hong Kong’s anti-epidemic policy is simple and clear, that is as long as the risks are manageable, we will minimise the restrictions. I will no longer discuss whether that is ‘0 + whatever.’ The important point is Hong Kong does not have a centralised isolation [policy],” Lee told the press ahead of his weekly Executive Council meeting.
Lee stressed that any Covid-19 measures were about striking a balance, with the government working to allow social activities.
The administration has been urged to scrap more Covid-19 related restrictions, such the group gathering ban and the Vaccine Pass. Public health experts have also called for the number of Covid tests required from incoming travellers to be cut.
Hong Kong has reported 1.99 million Covid-19 infections and 10,536 related deaths since the pandemic began.