Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor said that the third phase of relaxing social distancing measures will not happen at the end of June as originally scheduled. Speaking at her weekly press briefing before the ExCo meeting on Tuesday, Lam also reiterated that the current restrictions on international travellers will remain in place until the end of next month.
Earlier this month, Lam said that the third phase of social distancing measures would begin at the end of June. This stage would see the end of anti-epidemic measures, such as the restrictions on the maximum number of people at a banquet, as well as capacity limits and the ban on dancing and live performances being removed at restaurants, bars and restaurants. However, the CE said the two recent Covid-19 bar clusters would delay the government’s plan.
“There have already been over such 10 infection clusters in the community, especially the most recent two cases involving bars. My position at this moment is that we will probably not introduce the third and final stage of the social distancing relaxation before the end of June,” said the CE.
Despite the delay in commencing Stage 3, Lam said the government will not add further social distancing curbs to the current restrictions. “If there are no live performances and dancing and other mask-off activities, for the time being we are not going to tighten the measures,” she said.
No home quarantine for international arrivals
Over the past month, several restrictions imposed on overseas travellers who wish to enter Hong Kong have been lifted. Non-residents can now enter the city, the mandatory hotel quarantine period has been reduced to seven days, and some pre-departure testing requirements have been relaxed. However, there have been frequent calls for the Hong Kong government to scrap the week-long hotel isolation requirement and route-specific flight ban.
Lam maintained that there will be no changes to the current border controls before her term of office ends on June 30, 2022. “In relation to initiatives to prevent the importation of cases, they will continue for some time. We have 10-20% cases that are imported cases. There is also the new variant, BA.2.12.1 of Omicron, coming in from outside. So, within the end of this term, we do not see any room for further relaxation of measures in relation to prevention of importation of cases. There will be no changes to the seven-day hotel quarantine or [any] home quarantine before June 30,” she said.
The CE also reminded the public that the third stage of the vaccine pass initiative begins today. “If you want to enter the majority of premises, you will need three doses of the [Covid-19] vaccine. Starting from June 13, in relation to specified healthcare premises, that is, those under the Department of Health for non-emergency treatment, you need to fulfil requirements under the vaccine pass,” she said.
Header image credits: Patty Mooney via Wiki Commons