Health authorities will soon introduce new measures to protect residents at higher risk of Covid-19 infection, while considering options to reduce inconvenience for travellers, Hong Kong’s new leader has pledged.
Chief Executive John Lee Ka-chiu on Tuesday said the government was planning to reduce the quarantine period for incoming travellers, while at the same time controlling the risk of potential outbreaks to minimise the number of residents suffering from serious illnesses.
“One of the important measures is to make good use of the polymerase chain reaction [PCR] tests, so that we can be certain that we will be able to identify those who are infected early, separate them, so that they will not be spreading the virus to other people,” he said, without elaborating further on what other measures were being considered.
A source familiar with anti-epidemic policy said the authorities were considering more precise and targeted measures to combat Covid-19, so as to avoid the need to take indiscriminate social-distancing measures.
Options being considered include conducting more frequent and timely PCR tests for targeted groups such as staff at homes for the elderly and inbound travellers, exercising more control on access to places such as care homes and hospitals to protect high-risk groups in those facilities, and tightening access to people at risk such as those under home quarantine and subject to compulsory testing.
Last week, new health minister Professor Lo Chung-mau told the Post he was considering cutting hotel quarantine for travellers to five days, with another two to be spent in home isolation. Travellers currently must spend one week in a quarantine hotel on arrival.
Speaking before his first Executive Council meeting as leader on Tuesday, Lee said that while he was “conscious of the need for Hong Kong to remain open and convenient for travellers, it is also important that we address the risks at the same time so that we will maintain a good balance”.
Lee repeatedly said he had asked Lo to look at the evidence and statistics to see how the city could contain the spread of the virus while reducing the inconvenience for both travellers and residents.
“One of the areas that he’s looking at is how the duration of quarantine should be handled. I am giving him time to look at the statistics so that he will formulate some options for me to consider,” he said.
“The second thing is, we must continue to keep the pandemic under control because as the figures [go] up, then consequently by ratio, there will be a higher rate of people getting into hospital, which will mean that the hospital service will be affected ... particularly those who require consistent and persistent treatment.”
The leader said he understood residents were very concerned about the measures that would be taken, and that his new team was “very actively” looking at ones to reduce people’s inconvenience and allow them to go about their normal activities, and at the same time ensuring good protection for people who might face a high Covid-19 risk.
Hong Kong on Monday reported 1,841 new coronavirus cases, 196 of which were imported, and no additional related deaths.
The city’s coronavirus tally stands at 1,253,757 cases, with 9,405 fatalities.