Arrivals from mainland China need not be vaccinated to enter and move around Hong Kong because of the low Covid-19 risk from the region, the city’s leader said on Tuesday.
Chief Executive John Lee’s comments came in response to the uproar caused by a resident of Shenzhen who took to Xiaohongshu — the Chinese equivalent of Instagram — to brag about how she was able to enter Hong Kong and go to places that are regulated by the city’s vaccine pass, such as Hong Kong Disneyland, without actually being jabbed.
The post triggered outrage among residents of Hong Kong where — unlike many countries — there are still strict vaccine requirements for entry into venues such as restaurants, supermarkets and gyms, as well as arrivals from overseas.
Speaking before his weekly Executive Council meeting on Tuesday, Lee explained that the policy has existed for a long time.
“The main reason is that mainland China has the lowest risk of Covid-19 in the world,” he said.
Lee went on to say that authorities would monitor the situation to see if there was any need to review the policy.
But he said that, for now, they have not seen any imported cases coming from China.
Hong Kong has been facing another spike in the number of coronavirus infections in recent weeks, with over 10,000 reported on some days.
The city also recently announced adjustments to the vaccine pass with children aged 5 to 11 needing at least one jab by the end of this month and two by the end of November, despite concern from some parents about the safety of the shots for young children and skepticism among many about the effectiveness of such measures.
Those aged 12 and above would need to have three doses by the end of November.
Unlike arrivals from overseas — who need to have at least two doses of a Covid-19 vaccine before landing in the city and quarantine for three days in a hotel — those coming from mainland China and Macau can take part in a scheme that allows them to skip quarantine and enter without being jabbed, which the Xiaohongshu user said she did.
She also said she then managed to get a provisional vaccine pass from a post office, which allows her to go to venues regulated by the vaccine pass for 180 days.
Lee urged members of the public to get jabbed as public hospitals have cut 30 percent of their services to deal with Covid-19 cases.
He also rejected claims that the Omicron variant is just like a common flu, citing data showing more than 9,000 have lost their lives due to the strain while the annual death count for the flu is only around 300.
He added that the death rate for the flu is 0.1 percent, compared with 0.6 percent of Omicron.