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Tuesday, Apr 13, 2021

Lam flexible on jabs for travel bubble deals

Lam flexible on jabs for travel bubble deals

Vaccination is not necessarily a requirement for travel bubble arrangements, which depend on negotiations with specific countries, Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor said yesterday.
Speaking ahead of the Executive Council meeting yesterday, she said travel is a bilateral issue.

"Our people [are being] vaccinated. Whether the other side will then make life easier for our people to travel to their country is a matter for them," she said.

Her remarks came a day after Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development Edward Yau Tang-wah said the SAR would like to make vaccination a condition for travel bubble arrangements.

Lam said travel can be an incentive for inoculation, as some countries have said they will reduce quarantine requirements for vaccinated travelers.

Another incentive is to accept vaccination as a substitute for the regular virus testing required for workers from certain sectors. The vaccinated can also benefit from looser visitation rules at care homes and hospitals, as they will be allowed to meet relatives after taking a rapid antigen test.

"People should come forward to receive the vaccination so that together we can build up herd immunity in Hong Kong," she said.

On the suspension of the German-made Comirnaty vaccine by BioNTech/Fosun, Lam said the manufacturers' initial investigation found that the packaging defects did not affect the quality or efficacy of the jabs. "We very much hope to have the final report as soon as possible and the alternative, either in terms of supply or certification, to enable us to resume the vaccination of BioNTech, especially for those people who have already taken the first dose," she said.

As of Monday, 475,100 people have been vaccinated, with 299,200 receiving the Beijing-made CoronaVac by Sinovac and 151,300 taking BioNTech, whose rollout was suspended a week ago.

The Expert Committee on Clinical Events Assessment Following Covid-19 Immunization yesterday assessed five latest post-inoculation deaths and deemed none of them to be directly linked with vaccinations, as all of them suffered from pre-existing heart or coronary diseases.

They were among 13 post-inoculation deaths involving nine men and four women, aged 55 to 80, including 11 who took the Sinovac vaccine and two who received BioNTech's.

Hong Kong yesterday again saw no new local infections from unknown sources, as it reported seven new cases, six of which are imported and a local one linked to a previously diagnosed patient.

The tally stood at 11,462, including 205 deaths, yesterday.

That came as Secretary for Food and Health Sophia Chan Siu-chee said Hong Kong is in no position to significantly relax social distancing measures yet and that the gradual reopening of swimming pools and beaches from tomorrow is a minor adjustment.

Asked when places such as bars and party rooms can reopen, she said it would depend on the overall infection risks in the community rather than individual sectors.

Sources said the Executive Council yesterday gave the green light to social gathering exemptions at churches to allow religious activities at up to 30 percent of a venue's capacity as early as today.

Infectious disease expert Ho Pak-leung from the University of Hong Kong yesterday warned authorities to ensure good ventilation in changing rooms at pools and beaches, as people may not wear masks while showering.

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Ayn Rand
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