The government is to conduct a full review of Covid-19 measures, including the use of the contact-tracing mobile app, Chief Executive John Lee said on Sunday. It came two days after the city’s health chief said that Hong Kong would not “hastily” follow China’s speedy relaxations.

Lee said that he had asked the Health Bureau to conduct a full review of the city’s anti-epidemic measures, and that he believed that the bureau would submit a report soon.

Chief Executive John Lee meeting the press on December 11, 2022.
Chief Executive John Lee meeting the press on December 11, 2022. Photo: GovHK, via video screenshot.

Lee’s comments came after Hong Kong Secretary for Health Lo Chung-mau said last Friday that measures mandating vaccination and the use of the LeaveHomeSafe app to enter businesses would remain.

Aside from the app, Hong Kong still enforces a group gathering limit of 12 people in public and makes mask-wearing compulsory.

See also: A Covid-19 ‘living museum’: Is Hong Kong really ‘back in business’?

The chief executive said that, while the administration wanted to increase the city’s economic activity, they also had to consider the rising number of infections and deaths. He said that the healthcare system was facing more pressure.

“For Hong Kong’s various measures, we set them up according to the actual situation and risks,” said Lee.

“You all know that it [LeaveHomeSafe app] was launched for epidemic control – we have discussed with the Health Bureau, under this new situation, whether we can conduct a full review of these measures and see if we can make any adjustments. The Health Bureau is looking into this area actively.”

Photo: Lea Mok/HKFP

The health minister said last Friday that, while the use of tracking functions via the government mobile application had decreased, its use was still needed.

“[W]e may adjust the function of the LeaveHomeSafe app, but I think LeaveHomeSafe app is a very good app, which has helped Hong Kong in the fight against [the] pandemic, and perhaps in future, we may still need to rely on the LeaveHomeSafe to fight against other emerging infectious disease,” Lo said on Sunday, doubling down on Friday’s comments.

Nationwide relaxations

The Hong Kong administration had been questioned by lawmakers as to whether it would follow China in easing Covid-19 measures.

Lo Chung-mau
Secretary for Health Lo Chung-mau. Photo: Almond Li/HKFP.

China announced a nationwide loosening of pandemic restrictions last week that included reducing the frequency of tests, limiting the scope of lockdowns and allowing the infected to isolate at home instead of at government facilities. The changes came after multi-city protests against years of strict anti-epidemic measures.

Hong Kong’s security chief said that similar, but smaller, rallies in the city may amount to the beginnings of a “colour revolution.”

When asked if Hong Kong would resume quarantine-free travel with mainland China around Lunar New Year in January, the chief executive said that he hoped to discuss with mainland authorities whether “compassionate quotas” could be expanded.

Hong Kong reported 14,918 new Covid-19 infections and 24 deaths on Sunday. The city has recorded has recorded 2.25 million Covid-19 cases and 10,959 deaths since the beginning of the pandemic close to three years ago.

Relaxation for cross-border truck drivers

From Monday, cross-border truck drivers may collect or deliver goods in a “point-to-point” mode across the mainland-Hong Kong border, the government announced on Sunday.

There will be no quotas, and drivers will have to register on a government system to make an appointment. They will also undergo a Covid-19 test arranged by the Transport Department, and will only be allowed to enter mainland China after receiving a negative test result.

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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.