The Centre for Health Protection (CHP) announced that the government will now allow confirmed Covid-19 patients who contract Omicron subvariants, and their close contacts, to isolate at home instead of at Community Isolation Facilities (CIFs). The Head of the Communicable Disease Branch of the CHP, Dr Chuang Shuk-kwan, said the authorities made this decision as there is no discernible difference between the severity of symptoms in subvariants such as BA.2.12.1, BA.4, BA.5 and the prevailing BA.2.

In light of these findings by the CHP and the WHO, Dr Chuang said, “Therefore, we will adjust management of people suffering from suspected BA.2.12.1, as well as those suspected to be suffering from BA.4 or BA.5. Their management and isolation and quarantine measures will be the same as any other Omicron cases in Hong Kong.” In addition, a government press release issued later in the day stated, “If the relevant requirements are fulfilled and their household environment is suitable, positive cases and their close contacts could opt for home isolation and quarantine.”

Dr Chuang Shuk-kwan speaking at the daily Covid-19 press briefing on July 20

Home quarantine under the StayHomeSafe scheme is only permitted for patients and close contacts who satisfy certain criteria, such as having access to a separate bathroom and bedroom and not living with people deemed high-risk (e.g. elderly people, pregnant women or chronically ill patients with low immunity).

Dr Chuang made the announcement at the daily Covid-19 press briefing on Wednesday, where she also said that anyone who tests positive for these subvariants will get an electronic tracking wristband to ensure that they do not leave their homes during their isolation period.

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In June, the CHP implemented a policy by which anyone who contacted an Omicron subvariant within the community was sent to a CIF due to its “higher transmissibility and more immune escape”. Their close contacts were sent to government quarantine centres for observation. Patients and close contacts currently in quarantine under this arrangement will be discharged once they complete their isolation period.

However, international arrivals who test positive upon arrival at Hong Kong or during their mandatory hotel quarantine period will continue to be transferred to a CIF. Close contacts of confirmed cases who cannot isolate at home because their living conditions are unsuitable will still be sent to government quarantine centres.

Header image credit: Screen capture

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From the Middle East to the Far East and a couple of places in between, Anjali has lived in no fewer than seven cities in Asia, and has travelled extensively in the region. She worked as a lifestyle journalist in India before coming to Hong Kong, where her favourite thing to do is island-hopping with her daughter. You can check out her musings on motherhood, courtesy her Instagram profile.

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