Hong Kong is to proceed with relaxing COVID-19 curbs despite recording hundreds of cases a day, as the territory’s virus policy drifts further from Beijing’s “zero COVID-19” approach.
Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam (林鄭月娥) yesterday said that the territory would roll back social distancing measures tomorrow as previously announced, including opening bars and extending the hours for restaurants to serve customers.
“It is reasonable to have 200 to 300 cases each day,” Lam said at a regular weekly briefing. “We don’t need to worry too much. It is also our assessment that we can safely enter the second phase of easing social distancing measures.”
From tomorrow, dining at restaurants is to be extended to midnight, bars will be permitted to open until 2am and mask requirements for indoor exercise will be lifted.
Lam continued to cite reopening the border with mainland China as one of her government’s top priorities, without saying how that would happen.
Shanghai, China’s most-populous city and one of the nation’s major economic engines, is slowly exiting a lockdown that confined 25 million people to their homes for six weeks as Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) sticks with the nation’s strict “zero COVID-19” policy.
The trigger for easing in Shanghai was reporting zero infections outside the city’s extensive quarantine program.
That is a far cry from the situation in Hong Kong, where hundreds of new cases are still being reported daily.
Instead, Hong Kong officials are focusing on driving up the territory’s vaccination rate to prevent a spike in serious illness that could overwhelm hospitals.
By the end of this month, all eligible residents will need to have had three vaccine doses to use Hong Kong’s Vaccine Pass, a requirement to enter restaurants and many public places.
The May 31 deadline was moved up from June 30, as local officials push to boost the territory’s vaccination rate. Just over half of Hong Kong’s eligible residents have received their third jab, government data showed.
Hong Kong still lags much of the world in its return to normalcy, with the territory maintaining mandatory seven-day hotel quarantines for vaccinated incoming travelers.
JPMorgan Chase & Co chief executive officer for Asia-Pacific Filippo Gori told Bloomberg TV yesterday in an interview that it was important that Hong Kong “keeps on moving on the relaxation process,” citing border controls as the next measure officials should ease.
“If we could have home quarantine, from a business standpoint, it would make an enormous difference because it would remove a lot of stress,” Gori said.
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