Bookings for COVID-19 vaccinations jumped in Hong Kong as the government said it could ease social distancing rules for inoculated people to encourage more of the population to sign up for shots.
About 13,500 people made online reservations for Pfizer-BioNTech vaccinations at community centers in the 24 hours to 8pm on Monday, and another 3,300 signed up for the Sinovac Biotech shot, the Hong Kong government said in a statement.
The bookings, which include first and second doses, were about double the number from the previous day and do not include private clinics.
Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam (林鄭月娥) on Monday said that “vaccine bubbles” might be considered if more people are inoculated, meaning restrictions on places such as restaurants and bars could be loosened for them.
For now, social distancing measures that limit restaurant dine-in options and have shuttered bars are to remain in place until April 28.
Hong Kong’s approach would expand benefits for vaccinated people, while persisting with restrictions for those who have not been inoculated. Restaurants, for example, can set aside “clean zones” where vaccinated customers can gather in greater numbers than the maximum of four currently allowed.
“For customers who want to go into this area and enjoy eight-person tables, then they have to be vaccinated, and the staff serving this area, this delineated area, have all to be vaccinated,” Lam said.
In Israel, which has led the way in returning life to close to normal, a so-called green pass is issued to those who have completed their vaccine course or recovered from infection.
The pass grants access to venues such as gyms, hotels and swimming pools.
The UK has begun easing its lockdown after British Prime Minister Boris Johnson set out a three-month target for fully lifting restrictions.
“I don’t think our so-called incentives plan is complicated,” Lam told another briefing yesterday morning, adding that strategies must be tailored to local needs.
“What we need now is to promote vaccination in Hong Kong,” she said. “The government has to come up with stronger incentives, which are important, not only for promoting vaccination, but also to allow Hong Kong to go back to normality in a gradual and orderly manner.”
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