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Govt steps back from isolating residents in variant-tainted blocks

08 May 2021

By The SUN

More than 1,000 residents were evacuated from a housing block in Caribbean Coast

In a major shift in its pandemic response, the government announced Friday that it would no longer impose a 21-day quarantine for residents of entire housing blocks where Covid infections involving mutant strains are found.

If they test negative following a lockdown they can remain in their homes, but must comply with more mandatory testing afterwards.


The move follows accusations that the government had overreacted to the discovery of coronavirus variants within the community.

Much of the criticism came from hundreds of people told to move to quarantine facilities as soon as a single case of a variant infection was found in their housing blocks. 

Lam says the policy shift was made after assessing the latest situation

Controller of the Centre for Health Protection, Ronald Lam, said at the press conference officials had decided to release the residents early after reviewing the latest situation.

He said people evacuated from Parkes Building where an Indian returnee from Dubai found to have the South African variant had lived would soon complete their 21-day quarantine and none of them has been found to carry the virus.

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Following this, thousands more people were moved to quarantine centers after a string of variant carriers were found.

They included residents of a block in Caribbean Coast in Tung Chung, Kennedy Heights in Mid-Levels, Beauty Mansion in Tsim Sha Tsui, Allway Gardens in Tsuen Wan, Kornhill Garden in Quarry Bay, and Royalton in Pokfulam. 

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Also moved were nearly 80 Filipinos who belong to the choir of St Thomas the Apostle church in Tsing Yi, where the helper from Tung Chung was also a member.

But apart from the female employer of the Tung Chung patient, no infection has been found so far from among those moved to quarantine camps..

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Lam deflected criticism of an overreaction, saying officials could not find the source of the infections at first. But the concern eased after seven of the most recent cases were all linked to the Indian returnee from Dubai.

“We had to adopt the most prudent approach and most stringent measures,” he said.


“This is not only for the health of the residents, but also to prevent further transmission within the community. So this is definitely not an overreaction but a very cautious approach to protect the health of Hong Kong.”

Under the new rules, those already sent to quarantine camps for 21 days, including more than a thousand people from Tower 11 of Caribbean Coast, will be tested again. They can go home if they obtain a negative test result, but will continue taking a series of Covid tests afterwards.

Tunghayan ang isa na namang kwentong Dream Love.

The amended rules were mostly a nod to residents who have been fully vaccinated.

If they are deemed as close contacts of coronavirus patients with variants they can leave quarantine after 14 days if they are fully vaccinated, instead of the current 21 days. But they will still have to undergo mandatory tests after their return home.

If they are linked to infected patients who do not have the mutant strains, their quarantine period will go down to 7 days from the current 14.

Chan says only those returning from high risk countries
will still be subject to 21-day quarantine

Meanwhile, Health Secretary Dr Sophia Chan said that new quarantine rules that take effect next Wednesday will benefit returning residents if they are fully vaccinated.

Those coming from low-risk countries, such as Australia, New Zealand and Singapore, will be required to undergo quarantine at a hotel for seven days, instead of 14, but they must have one more Covid test afterwards.

The quarantine period for those arriving from medium-risk places will be cut to 14 days from 21.

But the quarantine rules for those who fly in from high-risk countries such as the United Kingdom and Ireland will remain unchanged.

People in countries currently designated as “extremely high risk” such as the Philippines, India, Pakistan, Nepal, South Africa and Brazil are still barred from flying to Hong Kong

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