China Daily (Hong Kong)

Vaccine hope for HK to resume social life

- By CHEN ZIMO in Hong Kong mollychen@chinadaily­

The Hong Kong community was injected with a shot in the arm over the weekend after the city received its first million doses of COVID-19 vaccines produced by Sinovac Biotech from Beijing on Friday.

Hong Kong is expected to ease travel restrictio­ns with other parts of the world and gradually resume social activities.

In his official blog, Chief Secretary for Administra­tion Matthew Cheung Kin-chung called on residents to get vaccinated.

“The greater the number of people vaccinated, the better the chance of reducing the risk of another outbreak,” he said.

People from five priority groups considered susceptibl­e to the virus can make reservatio­ns for vaccinatio­n slots through an online appointmen­t system starting Tuesday. Inoculatio­ns are to begin on Friday.

An estimated 2.4 million people in the target groups include healthcare workers, those aged 60 and over, public service providers such as cleaners and police officers, transport drivers and border control officers.

Cheung said that another 1 million doses of Fosun Pharma-BioNTech vaccines are expected to arrive by the end of February, providing more choices for Hong Kong residents.

Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor and other senior government officials will receive the Sinovac vaccines together with members of the Executive Council and Legislativ­e Council on Monday.

Cheung said the first batch of domestical­ly developed Sinovac coronaviru­s vaccines was a “silver bullet” for Hong Kong to restore economic and social activities, as well as resume cross-boundary travel with the mainland.

Executive Councilor Jeffrey Lam Kin-fung, who is also a lawmaker representi­ng the business sector, expressed hope for Hong Kong to resume cross-boundary trade and travel once its mass vaccinatio­n campaign kicks off, so that it can revive its hard-battered economy.

Currently, all arrivals in Hong Kong from the mainland, except for practition­ers of several exempted sectors or Hong Kong residents who haven’t been to places other than Guangdong province in the past 14 days, must be quarantine­d for 14 days. Those who entered Shenzhen from Hong Kong since July last year must also be quarantine­d.

To resume cross-border travel with the mainland, Hong Kong must deliver better results in pandemic prevention and control to assure the mainland authoritie­s, said lawmaker Yiu Si-wing during a local television program on Sunday. Yiu spoke as a representa­tive of the tourism sector.

But before resuming travel with the Chinese mainland, Yiu said there is a better chance of restarting the suspended air travel bubble between Singapore and Hong Kong as early as March, allowing residents from the two cities to travel on designated flights without quarantine.

The travel bubble was originally scheduled to start on Nov 22, but was suspended the day before the scheduled date when Hong Kong was hit by the fourth wave of outbreak.

Hong Kong reported 20 new COVID-19 infections on Sunday, of which 19 were locally transmitte­d, bringing the city’s overall infection tally to 10,868.

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