Hong Kong’s plan to relax quarantine requirements for fully vaccinated people would be “extremely dangerous”, considering that none of the existing vaccines has been proven to be “completely effective” in preventing virus transmission, said respiratory medicine specialist Leung Chi-chiu on Wednesday (5 May).
Earlier on Tuesday, Hong Kong’s health secretary Sophia Chan told lawmakers that the quarantine period for people who are fully vaccinated against the coronavirus may be reduced from the current 21 days to 14 or seven days.
Speaking to RTHK, Dr Leung pointed out that none of the scientific data had indicated that the vaccine is “in a position” to change the incubation period, which needs to be taken into consideration when deciding on the quarantine period.
“If we shorten it only because of the vaccination, there is a high risk that we will miss many of these cases, especially during this period when we are facing the invasion of variant strains into our community.
“None of the existing vaccine has been shown to be completely effective in preventing transmission, and there’s also concern whether the efficacy will be substantially reduced by some of the variant strains, especially from the African variant strain, for that we need to take extra care,” he said.
Thousands of people may need to be isolated if the authorities missed any imported cases due to a shortened quarantine period for fully vaccinated people, said Dr Leung, highlighting that the Government should instead step up measures to prevent imported cases.
“Because there is a certain proportion of these infected persons, for example, one to two percent, who might be setting the virus intermittently in their upper airway in the subsequent 12 weeks, if we cannot differentiate them from other recently infected persons, we may be quarantining a lot more of our citizens unnecessarily,” he added.
Minister Ong Ye Kung says vaccinated S’pore residents travelling to countries with low COVID-19 cases could be exempted from quarantine period
Over in Singapore, Transport Minister Ong Ye Kung had said in April that the Government was looking into allowing vaccinated residents to travel to countries with low numbers of COVID-19 without having to be quarantined on their return.
Citing other countries like Britain, Denmark, France, Germany and the United States, Mr Ong noted that these countries have already exempted Singapore’s travellers from quarantine.
“If they can keep the number of cases quite low – and it doesn’t have to go down to zero or one, two cases – we can consider allowing vaccinated Singaporeans to travel to these places. And when they return, they can just get tested instead of being quarantined,” he said.
Mr Ong noted that while this will not be considered a travel bubble, it will be “an important avenue to open up some more”.
“It won’t be considered a travel bubble, but it will be an important avenue to open up some more,” he told Lianhe Zaobao, as quoted by ST.
Singapore and Hong Kong have agreed to launch the air travel bubble between the two cities on 26 May with “more stringent arrangements” in place.
Under this scheme, there will be no restrictions on the purpose of travel and no requirements for a controlled itinerary or sponsorship.
The Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS) said on 26 Apr that travellers must have remained in either Singapore or Hong Kong in the last 14 days prior to departure, excluding any time spent in quarantine or stay-home notice.
Travellers from Hong Kong will also have to be fully vaccinated against the COVID-19 before departing for Singapore, except for children and those not suitable for vaccination on medical grounds.
In addition, travellers from Singapore will be required to install Hong Kong’s LeaveHomeSafe app on their mobile devices prior to departure for Hong Kong.
“If the ATB has to be suspended when the seven-day moving average of the unlinked community cases in either Singapore or Hong Kong increases to above five, it can only resume when the COVID situation has stabilized,” said CAAS.