Hong Kong should scrap Covid-19 restrictions including the vaccine pass, a lawmaker said, after China announced the relaxation of limits such as quarantine requirements for patients.

Doreen Kong, lawyer and Legislative Councillor, said on Commercial Radio on Tuesday that the government should scrap all restrictions listed under Cap. 599 Prevention and Control of Disease Ordinance.

Doreen Kong. Photo: Legislative Council, via Flickr.

The ordinance stipulates Covid-19 restrictions including the mask mandate, vaccine pass, and group gathering limit.

Under current regulations, patrons at premises such as restaurants, bars, and gyms, have to fulfil the government’s vaccination requirement before they were allowed entry.

Residents also have to abide by the mask mandate, and must wear a mask in public, apart from when they were exercising. The city also imposes a group gathering limit, where no more than 12 people can gather in a group in public places. Eating and drinking remains banned on ferries.

Kong, who has often questioned the government’s anti-epidemic policy, said that – if restrictions in the city were not lifted – it would create conflicts between Hong Kong and mainland China.

“Now that the country has already defined [Covid-19] as not such a scary disease anymore, why is Hong Kong still [treating it] as an emergency?” Kong asked on Commercial Radio.

China restrictions axed

The lawmaker’s comments came after China announced that it will drop quarantine requirement for arrivals from January 8, 2023. The new policy was the latest change in a series of relaxations.

Photo: Kyle Lam/HKFP.

The world’s most populous country has maintained strict Covid-19 restrictions since the pandemic began around three years ago, though has been slow to vaccinate the elderly. Previously, rigorous testing and strict lockdowns were imposed in areas with confirmed patients.

China rapidly dropped restrictions amid nationwide protests and is now seeing an unprecedented wave of infections, with reports of hospitals and crematoriums across the countries being overwhelmed.

Siddharth Sridhar, microbiologist from the University of Hong Kong, said on Twitter that the mainland had recognised “the futility” of mandatory hotel quarantine for incoming travellers.

“[Hong Kong] took 9 months after its first major wave to drop hotel quarantine for [international] arrivals. The mainland, recognising the futility of this measure in the midst of a raging outbreak, is doing the same in a month,” Sridhar tweeted.

At one point, visitors arriving into Hong Kong had to undergo 21 days of isolation at one of the city’s designated quarantine hotels. The requirement, while gradually eased over the past year, was scrapped entirely since September 26.

Hong Kong has recorded 18,626 Covid-19 infections and 53 deaths on Tuesday. The city has recorded 2,522,836 Covid-19 cases and 11,562 deaths since the pandemic began close to three 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.