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Saturday, Dec 05, 2020

Hong Kong to get its own health code system for travels to Guangdong, Macau after Covid-19 border restrictions are lifted

A source says the system, meant to certify whether a traveller is free from coronavirus, will not contain transfer of any personal data. Authorities in Macau and Zhuhai have their own health code systems in place since May 10

A Hong Kong health code system separate from that of mainland China will soon be launched to certify residents virus-free when they visit Macau and Guangdong as part of a plan to lift Covid-19 border restrictions.

The latest arrangements contain no transfer of any personal data among governments, a source familiar with the development told the Post, allaying public concerns about authorities’ intrusion into people’s lives and data.

To create a “travel bubble” that enables easier movement of people among regions where the Covid-19 situation is considered under control, authorities of Hong Kong, Macau and Guangdong began discussing health screening and approval procedures two months ago.

The Hong Kong government is expected to announce a detailed plan on this in early June.

Macau and the neighbouring mainland Chinese city of Zhuhai have recognised each other’s health code systems since May 10, to check the coronavirus infection-status of those crossing the borders.

Their systems generate coloured QR codes to indicate a person’s level of risks based on his state of health, possible contact with Covid-19 patients and travel history.

A green code means the person does not have coronavirus symptoms, while red indicates infection, suspected infection or close contact with a confirmed case.

The Trade and Industry Department has been approving border-travel exemptions for more than 1,000 businessmen and their staff since early May, but the government is still working on a separate and recognised health system that will allow others to be exempt from 14 days of quarantine in the mainland.

“There will be a Hong Kong health code based on Covid-19 test results. The government is discussing with Guangdong and Macau authorities to ensure they recognise our test results and health codes for exemptions from quarantine requirements on their sides and vice versa. There will not be any transfer of personal data among governments,” the source said.

Before applying for a QR health code, a person will have to undergo a Covid-19 test. He will either have to send his saliva sample to a hospital via delivery services or submit it in person. Results will be available within 12 to 24 hours in private hospitals.

The hospitals will then directly input the results on an online platform of the government, while also sharing them with the applicant.

Upon getting a coronavirus-negative result, the applicant will be eligible to apply for a QR health code by inputting his personal information on an online system. Once approved, the code can be shown from smartphones while crossing the borders. A QR code will be valid for around seven days.

A printed version of the health certificate can also be used alternatively.

Stephen Lee, 34, whose family owns a factory in Shenzhen on the mainland, said he would not mind using the QR code or the printed health certificate.

“We have been waiting for months to get quarantine exemptions, so I can return to my factory as soon as possible,” he said.


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