The Centre For Health Protection (CHP) Controller, Dr Edwin Tsui, confirmed that Hongkongers who are infected with certain Omicron sub-variants will no longer be able to isolate at home and will instead be sent to quarantine centres.
Speaking at the daily CHP Covid-19 briefing on Wednesday, Dr Tsui said that the authorities will take a “more stringent approach” in their investigations of Omicron sub-lineages that have emerged overseas such as BA.2.12.1, BA.4 and BA.5 because they have potentially “higher transmissibility and more immune escape” than the BA.2.2 sub-variant that is currently prevalent in Hong Kong.
“So if we handle a case suspected to have [been] infected with these Omicron sub-lineages like BA.2.12.1, we have to take them to the controlled facilities like the Community Isolation Facilities (CIFs) or hospitals if there are any symptoms. Their close contacts will be put into the quarantine centres for a more close observation of this case,” said Dr Tsui.
In February 2022, the Hong Kong government launched the StayHomeSafe scheme under which close contacts and household members of close contacts could undergo home quarantine, provided that their homes and family environments met certain conditions. The criteria included suitability of the person’s dwelling place, the risk level of persons confining at the same place and their individual physical conditions.
The same conditions applied to Covid-19 patients who tested positive for the virus at home and who were awaiting admission to hospitals during the Omicron-fuelled fifth wave of the pandemic in Hong Kong.
Under the new CHP guidelines, Hongkongers infected with Omicron sub-variants other than BA.2.2 and their close contacts will no longer have the option of quarantining at home even if they and their homes meet the StayHomeSafe criteria. However, in a press release issued on June 1, the government clarified that these new measures do “not signify a change in the overall quarantine and isolation policy”.
These recent developments come after Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor said that Stage 3 of the government’s plan to relax social distancing measures will likely be postponed because of Covid-19 clusters at two bars on Hong Kong Island. The CE also reiterated that there are no plans to reintroduce home quarantine for international arrivals or to scrap the mandatory hotel quarantine requirements for them.
Last week, the Secretary for Food and Health, Professor Sophia Chan, said that the government is currently only using Penny’s Bay and the Novotel Citygate Hong Kong to accommodate international arrivals who test positive for the virus and asymptomatic patients who contract the virus in the city but who cannot recover at home. The CIFs at Tsing Yi, San Tin, Hong Kong Boundary Crossing Facilities Island of the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge, Fanling, Hung Shui Kiu and Yuen Long are in standby mode in the event that the city faces a sixth wave of the pandemic.
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