A top Hong Kong medic has said the city’s authorities should focus on protecting people in need and scrap “ineffective” Covid-19 measures such as testing, isolation and the use of the government’s tracing app LeaveHomeSafe. Mandatory use of the app was axed last Wednesday, but a number of venues reportedly continue to require its use.

LeaveHomeSafe Covid-19
LeaveHomeSafe codes remained visible across the city after the government stopped requiring its scanning for the entry of restaurants and other premises. Photo: Kyle Lam/HKFP.

Speaking on Commercial Radio on Monday morning, leading University of Hong Kong microbiologist Ho Pak-leung said he hoped the government would speed up its return to normalcy.

Ho said most Covid-19 patients only developed “very mild” symptoms if they had received a complete course of vaccination as well as an effective booster.

“Therefore, the focus should be on vulnerable groups that need protection, and truly carrying out meaningful anti-epidemic work,” he said. “I urge the Chief Executive John Lee to remove by the end of 2022… those useless or ineffective measures like testing, quarantine and LeaveHomeSafe.”

Hong Kong axed mandatory use of the LeaveHomeSafe app to enter restaurants and other specified premises last Wednesday.

However, Ho said some universities or businesses still thought it was “better” to have visitors scan the Covid-19 contact-tracing app before entry.

“This is truly unnecessary,” Ho said.

Hong Kong still has a number of Covid-19 restrictions in place, with Covid-19 patients required to quarantine at hospitals, isolation facilities or at home, and residents in areas affected by outbreaks made to undergo mandatory testing.

Offering mainlanders new vaccines

Meanwhile, Ho also urged Hong Kong’s health authorities to offer the new Omicron-targeting BioNTech bivalent vaccine as boosters for mainland Chinese people in the city. Currently, the Omicron jab is only available to Hong Kong residents.

The health expert said Hong Kong has sufficient stock of around 1.7 million doses of the Omicron-specific jab.

Ho Pak-leung
Ho Pak-leung. File photo: RTHK screenshot.

“After taking into account our own demand, we can open up specific places for mainlanders who are due for a Covid-19 booster jab [to take the bivalent vaccine], in order to match the country’s policy requirements,” Ho said.

He added that his proposal could create favourable terms for Hong Kong to resume quarantine-free travel with mainland China in January.

Hong Kong reported 15,383 new Covid-19 infections on Monday, bringing the total number or recorded cases to 2.37 million and 11,210 related deaths.

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Peter Lee is a reporter for HKFP. He was previously a freelance journalist at Initium, covering political and court news. He holds a Global Communication bachelor degree from CUHK.