December 14, 2022
HONG KONG – The Hong Kong authorities will abandon its amber health code arrangement on all incoming travelers, while the residents will no longer need to use the LeaveHomeSafe app to scan QR codes before entering various premises starting Wednesday.
Chief Executive John Lee Ka-chiu announced the new measures ahead of the weekly Executive Council meeting.
“Those who are not infected with COVID-19, including foreign arrivals, will have a blue code, while those who are will be assigned a red code,” he said.
Currently, Hong Kong has a “0+3” arrangement under which all arrivals need to self-monitor for possible COVID-19 infection for three days upon entering the city. The scrapping of the amber code, which currently requires all arrivals to undergo three days of health observation and nucleic tests, means they will be subject to almost no restrictions while moving about in the city after landing.
The chief executive stressed that “any measures that we introduce to deal with COVID is based on actual figures, data and risk assessment” while working out the two latest measures.
The scrapping of the amber code, which currently requires all arrivals to undergo three days of health observation and nucleic tests, means they will be subject to almost no restrictions while moving about in the city after landing
“The risk of imported cases in Hong Kong is even lower than that of getting infected in the community. Therefore, canceling the amber code will not increase the risk of residents getting infected in the city,” Lee said.
Regarding the contact tracing app LeaveHomeSafe, the chief executive said the Vaccine Pass will remain in place in some designated areas, such as restaurants.
Under the lateset arrangement, the app will only issue blue and red codes.
These two measures will be enforced on Wednesday to allow time for relevant parties to make further arrangements, Lee added.
Talking about reopening of the border with the mainland, Lee said we must be aware that “decisions made are similarly based on actual situation, and also data and risk assessment in cities on the mainland.” The government was pushing ahead with the issues concerned, he added.
“I think all people want to have less restrictions as much as possible, while ensuring activities, socially and economically, can proceed as much as possible,” Lee said.
“If there’re any new measures, we’ll announce them as early as possible,” Lee said, adding that the resumption of normal travel with the mainland is “close to his heart”.
The chief executive also thanked the government of Guangdong province for ensuring the normal operations of supply chain and economic activities.
Lee expressed support for the relaxation of anti-pandemic measures on the mainland, hoping they could achieve the desired results.
The LeaveHomeSafe app and the vaccine pass were two separate items, Secretary for Health Lo Chung-mau said, adding that residents can show their vaccine passes when entering various premises using the app, the paper copy or a screen shot of their vaccine certificates
LeaveHomeSafe app, Vaccine Pass separate
In another press briefing later in the day, Secretary for Health Lo Chung-mau stressed that the LeaveHomeSafe app will not be cancelled.
“Only the function of scanning QR code of different public premises will be cancelled. Residents can still use the app to store their personal COVID-19 vaccination records and testing results,” Lo said.
The app and the Vaccine Pass are two separate items, Lo said, adding that residents can show their vaccine passes when entering various premises using the app, the paper copy or a screen shot of their vaccine certificates.
Foreign arrivals will have temporary vaccine certificates once they arrive in the city, Lo added.
When asked why the Vaccine Pass was still enforced, the health chief said the vaccination rate for the elderly in early 2022 was only about 10 percent. But after the Vaccine Pass program was implemented, the rate increased to about 60 percent, which showed the positive effect on the vaccination.
Meanwhile, the arrangement of Rapid Antigen Test (RAT) for school children will also remain compulsory as “children are issues of our concern and RATs have effectively lowered the rate of virus outbreaks in schools”, Lo said.
“We have the responsibilty to protect them and prevent the next winter surge,” Lo added.
Wearing face masks was very important for the prevention of not only coronavirus, but also seasonal flu, he said, urging residents to get vaccinated against flu as well to protect ourselves so that the healthcare system will not collapse.
Regarding a nasal spray vaccine which was approved for use on the mainland, the authorities have accessed the relevant data and will see if it will be suitable for residents as a booster, he added.
Lo also announced travelers leaving Hong Kong for the mainland and the Macao Special Administrative Region will no longer be required to take a mandatory nucleic acid test at the checkpoints from Wednesday
Lo also announced that travelers leaving Hong Kong for the mainland and the Macao Special Administrative Region will no longer be required to take a mandatory nucleic acid test at the checkpoints from Wednesday.
However, they will still need to produce a COVID-19 negative test result 48 hours before their departure.
Arrangements for virus tests in Hong Kong have also been adjusted. The government will gradually reduce compulsory testing operations at residential buildings, and distribute more rapid antigen test packs to the community instead.
Regular nucleic acid or PCR (polymerase chain reaction) tests for most targeted groups, except high-risk groups, such as those working in hospitals and care homes, will be replaced by regular rapid antigen tests. The daily RAT requirement for students will be maintained.
People under home quarantine will no longer have to wear an electronic wristband as it’s not cost-effective, Lo said. The government will continue to send them anti-pandemic supplies and randomly check if they’ve left the premises.