August 18, 2022
HONG KONG – The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region government is “actively discussing” the possibility of quarantine-free travel with the Chinese mainland, Chief Secretary for Administration Chan Kwok-ki said on Wednesday.
Chan made the statement during a media session after attending the Ante Chamber exchange session with Legislative Council members on Wednesday morning.
Chief Secretary for Administration Chan Kwok-ki said that the HKSAR government is working hard with the mainland to solve the quarantine quota problem, adding that chartering flights to take the students to the mainland is one option under consideration
“We have been discussing actively with the mainland authorities how to, I would say, resume the quarantine-free travel between Hong Kong and the mainland, and I think we will make announcement at suitable occasions,” he said.
During the exchange session, legislators Kitson Yang Wing-kit and Scott Leung Man-kwong expressed concerns about Hong Kong students who are unable to go to the mainland in time to start their college courses owing to a lack of quarantine quotas.
They pointed out that many Hong Kong high school students who have enrolled in mainland universities fear they won’t be able to arrive at their universities in time for registration, due to the limited number of lottery-based cross-border quotas.
A Hong Kong student who had enrolled to begin studies at Shanghai Jiao Tong University eventually decided to decline the offer, owing to a repeated inability to secure a place in the quota system.
Responding to the issue, Chan said that the HKSAR government is working hard with the mainland to solve the quota problem, adding that chartering flights to take the students to the mainland is one option under consideration.
As any plans to charter flights may, however, turn out to be complex and time-consuming, Yeung suggested that the authorities could consider offering additional border-crossing quotas to this group of students, to help them arrive at their universities in time.
Deputy Chief Secretary for Administration Cheuk Wing-hing said in the same media session that the government will also conduct a comprehensive review of the city’s hygiene and sanitation laws.
“We will be looking at whether the existing legislations are adequate in terms of empowering government departments to properly carry out their duties, and also the adequacy of the penalty,” Cheuk said. “So, we will take a holistic view and if necessary, we will propose changes to existing legislation, or even explore the prospect of enacting a new legislation.”
5,757 new cases logged
Hong Kong recorded 5,757 new COVID-19 cases on Wednesday, including 194 imported infections and 5,563 local cases, Albert Au Ka-wing, principal medical and health officer of the Centre for Health Protection’s communicable disease branch, said in a separate press briefing.
Hong Kong recorded 5,757 new COVID-19 cases on Wednesday, including 194 imported infections, said Albert Au Ka-wing, principal medical and health officer of the Centre for Health Protection’s communicable disease branch
He added that four new deaths were reported, bringing the city’s toll during the fifth wave to 9,371.
“Starting from July, we witnessed an upward trend…In July, we were looking at 3,000-3,500 cases. By end of July or early August, we were looking at 4,500..Today, it has gone up to 5,500,” Au said.
Of the 194 imported cases, 89 were confirmed at the airport, 54 at quarantine hotels, and 51 at community testing centers. More than 10 cases each came from Thailand, the United Kingdom, the United States, India, and the Philippines. The rest were from 38 other countries.
Four residential care homes reported infections while 48 schools reported 74 cases. Three kindergartens and a primary school suspended some classes due to infections.
Au said 24.5 percent of the new cases involved the Omicron subvariant BA.5 while 7.4 percent were linked to BA.2.12.1.
Lau Ka-hin, chief manager (quality and standards) of the Hospital Authority, said in the same briefing that 1,875 COVID patients were being treated in public hospitals as of Wednesday, including 273 new patients. Thirty-two were in critical condition, including 10 receiving intensive care, and 33 in serious condition.
Lau expressed concern about the increasing number of elderly patients, noting that 80 percent of admitted COVID patients were aged 60 years old and above.
“The percentage is on the high side. We appeal to all elderly persons to get vaccinated as soon as possible and to complete the regimen,” he said.
More elderly patients
Au said that 15,443 people aged 60 and above got infected with COVID-19 from Aug 1-14, which is is higher than the 12,898 elderly cases reported from July 18-31.
Lau said the four patients who died included two men and two women aged 52 to 96 years old. Three of them had cancer and three also did not complete their vaccination regimen.
He urged cancer patients and other severely-ill patients to get their vaccine shots to boost their immunity against the virus.