Hong Kong may open up to global travel after six months from now

Hong Kong could open up to global travel in roughly six months, after officials have successfully navigated the introduction of quarantine-free borders with mainland China and boosted the local vaccination rate, a government adviser said.

The Chinese territory needs to finish negotiating open borders with the mainland, while using the next few months to increase the flagging Covid-19 inoculation rate among the city’s elderly, Lam Ching-choi, a member of Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam’s advisory Executive Council, said.

“We maybe need half a year or so to develop an adequate vaccination rate, especially among the older people,” said Lam Ching-choi, who is also part of the government’s working group on vaccinations. “Hopefully by then, we have opened up the border with China and we might have conditions favourable to open up the border to other places.”

Despite procuring enough vaccines when they first became available, Hong Kong has struggled to inoculate its population of about 7.4 million people. Vaccine hesitancy, fuelled by fears of side effects particularly among the elderly, has hampered their use. Only 17% of those aged 80 and above in Hong Kong have gotten at least one shot, compared with 69% of the entire eligible population. And efforts by the government, including targeted pop-up vaccination sites at malls and public housing estates, have not yet boosted the take-up among older Hong Kongers.

As other countries continue opening up, Hong Kong and China remain the only places left in the world still pursuing a “Covid Zero” strategy that seeks to eliminate local transmission of the virus through strict measures including long quarantines, rigorous contact tracing and targeted testing blitzes.

The approach, however, has been unable to totally stamp out the virus in China. It is currently struggling to suppress its fourth outbreak of the more-transmissible delta variant in the past five months. (Source HT)

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