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Quarantine shortened to 14 days but flight ban on 8 countries stay

27 January 2022

 By The SUN 

CE Lam says the decision to cut the quarantine period is based on science

In a major policy shift, the Hong Kong government has announced that its 21-day quarantine for arriving travelers from abroad will be cut to 14 days starting on Feb 5 but they must remain under medical observation for seven more days.

The change was announced by Chief Executive Carrie Lam in an unannounced press conference late this afternoon, Jan. 27.

CE Lam said the decision to cut the quarantine period is “not because of pressure from anyone but because of science.”

PINDUTIN PARA SA DETALYE

She said according to government experts, the incubation period for the Omicron variant which is fueling a surge in Covid-19 is between four to five days, “so it will look very illogical for us to continue putting new arrivals on 21-day quarantine.”

Currently, Hong Kong residents returning from 147 countries are required to undergo 21 days of quarantine at designated hotels. A handful of countries are categorized as medium risk, for which the required quarantine period is 14 days. 

Under the new guidelines, all overseas countries will now be classified under Group A. Thus, no non-resident will be allowed to board a flight for Hong Kong, and they must be fully vaccinated and hold a recognized vaccination record.

The CE also said that flights from eight major countries including the Philippines will be extended for another two weeks to Feb. 18. Also included in the ban are Australia, Canada, France, India, Pakistan, Britain and the United States.

PINDUTIN PARA SA DETALYE

The CE also said that because of large-scale outbreaks in the community, the government could not relax, even fine-tune social distancing measures.

The Centre for Health Protection earlier reported a record 164 new Covid-19 infections, 116 of them local, including 12 with unknown sources.

Thus, all restrictions including the no dine-in at restaurants after 6pm and the closure of most entertainment venues will be extended for two weeks or until Feb 17. Face-to-face classes will remain suspended until Feb 21.

Ban on public gatherings of more than 4 people is extended until Feb 17 

Mrs Lam also said that the listed premises under Cap599F will be expanded from Feb 24, so more venues will be included in the “vaccine bubble” which will allow entry only to vaccinated people.

But she assured those who are not fully vaccinated will be given ample time to comply with the requirement under the vaccine bubble arrangement.

“There are many invisible transmissions in the community and we have raced to cut down these links,” she said. “That’s why we have resorted to quick and tough measures.”

Pindutin para sa detalye

Asked if her decision to shorten quarantine was due to pressure from the business community, she said, “Of course not, because they want seven days or no quarantine.”

For Hong Kong, she said this is dangerous because of the low vaccination rate among elderly people. In care homes for the elderly and the disabled, she said the vaccination rate is just 30%.

She again appealed to the elderly to get vaccinated, saying she did not want to put them at risk by further relaxing social distancing measures.

Press for details

Mrs Lam also pointed out that the reason all 600 plus Covid-19 patients who are in hospital are in stable condition is because almost all are fully vaccinated.

During the upcoming Lunar New Year, she said the government will make a general mobilisation to get as many people tested for Covid-19 as possible.

She called on retired civil servants to help in the effort to increase the daily testing capacity, which she hope to raise to 100,000 or more within one to two weeks.

PINDUTIN PARA SA DETALYE

Earlier, Health Secretary Sophia Chan hinted at the shortened quarantine period during a TV interview, saying that Omicron’s short incubation period was being reviewed.

Apart from the shortened quarantine, she said that if Penny’s Bay Quarantine Centre got filled up, home quarantine for close contacts could be considered, However, there should first be a risk assessment of each case, and support operations such as food supplies must be worked out.

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