Hong Kong will cut quarantine for arriving travellers to 14 days from 21, starting from February 5, leader Carrie Lam said on Thursday, after pressure from finance executives and foreign diplomats, who said the measure was hurting competitiveness.
Tough coronavirus rules have made Hong Kong one of the world's most isolated cities, with flights down as much as 90 percent. Residents returning from more than 160 countries are required to quarantine for 21 days in designated hotels at their own cost.
Lam said that incoming travellers would have to spend 14 days in a hotel, followed by seven days of self-monitoring, with further details to be announced. She did not say which countries would be covered by the new rules.
The easing comes as the government tightens rules in the Chinese territory, locking down thousands in a congested housing complex and government facilities.
Schools, playgrounds, gyms and most venues are shut, while tens of thousands of people must do daily coronavirus tests.
Frequently Asked Questions
A vaccine works by mimicking a natural infection. A vaccine not only induces immune response to protect people from any future COVID-19 infection, but also helps quickly build herd immunity to put an end to the pandemic. Herd immunity occurs when a sufficient percentage of a population becomes immune to a disease, making the spread of disease from person to person unlikely. The good news is that SARS-CoV-2 virus has been fairly stable, which increases the viability of a vaccine.
There are broadly four types of vaccine — one, a vaccine based on the whole virus (this could be either inactivated, or an attenuated [weakened] virus vaccine); two, a non-replicating viral vector vaccine that uses a benign virus as vector that carries the antigen of SARS-CoV; three, nucleic-acid vaccines that have genetic material like DNA and RNA of antigens like spike protein given to a person, helping human cells decode genetic material and produce the vaccine; and four, protein subunit vaccine wherein the recombinant proteins of SARS-COV-2 along with an adjuvant (booster) is given as a vaccine.
Vaccine development is a long, complex process. Unlike drugs that are given to people with a diseased, vaccines are given to healthy people and also vulnerable sections such as children, pregnant women and the elderly. So rigorous tests are compulsory. History says that the fastest time it took to develop a vaccine is five years, but it usually takes double or sometimes triple that time.
Lam said citywide curbs would be extended until Feb 17, from a previous date of Feb. 4.
This week the government announced that some civil servants could work from home, with some bank staff receiving similar instructions.
Thursday's 164 infections were a record since the pandemic started in 2020. It was a fifth consecutive day of cases in the triple digits after an outbreak linked to the Kwai Chung housing estate.