The vaccine pass requirement and all other social distancing measures will be scrapped starting tomorrow (Thu), while close contacts of confirmed Covid-19 patients will no longer be subject to quarantine, Hong Kong authorities announced on Wednesday.
Citizens will not be categorized as “close contacts” as well. Instead, they will be given health suggestions by authorities, who are also reviewing the quarantine order issued to confirmed patients.
All people arriving in the Chinese SAR need not to undergo any Covid
PCR test, as they are only required to take the rapid antigen test five days in a row.
“We have always been preparing for us to proceed towards normalization progressively and orderly, with risks under control so that we can assess the risks as we go on,” Lee said as he denied speculations that the changes came too suddenly.
“It [the relaxation] is not rapid, it is not sudden. There will always come a day when we have to make a big decision about normalization. That's exactly what we are doing now because the time is appropriate for us to do it, having prepared for six months to do all these.”
However, the mask mandate will stay and travelers still have to present a negative RAT result valid for 24 hours or a negative PCR test result valid for 48 hours before boarding a plan to Hong Kong.
In a press conference Wednesday afternoon, chief executive John Lee Ka-chiu pointed to a strong immunity barrier, as he referred to the city's high vaccination rate and noted that over 2.5 million citizens have contracted Covid
at least once.
Lee added the city has sufficient drugs supply that can effectively combat the coronavirus
, and medical workers have now accumulated rich experiences in handling the pandemic.
The healthcare system will switch their focus on preventing patients from developing severe illnesses, curbing the rising death toll, and protecting high-risk groups including children and elderly.
Hongkongers have become more knowledgeable after these three year of pandemic and can better defend themselves from Covid
, the city leader also said.
Meanwhile, Secretary for Health Lo Chung-mau said Hongkongers will remain prioritized in receiving the BioNTech
or the children's dosage, and that the city will not arrange free vaccination for non locals who are in the SAR only for a short time.
The health chief went on to say that the daily RAT requirement targeting students of primary schools and kindergartens will stay, due to children's inability to care for themselves.
Authorities will no longer issue the compulsory testing notice targeting residential buildings as well. Yet, free Covid
tests are still available in local communities.