The Hong Kong vaccine pass initiative came into effect on February 24, 2022. Under this arrangement, all Hong Kong residents must show proof that they have received at least one dose of a Covid-19 vaccination to enter certain premises. Second and third doses will also be required for the vaccine pass to remain eligible. Read on to find out everything you need to know about the vaccine pass.

What is the vaccine pass?

From February 24, people who want to enter government venues and 24 other types of private premises including restaurants and fitness centres (see full list below) must produce a vaccine pass for digital scanning. This is a QR code on a paper vaccination certificate or the LeaveHomeSafe app (LHS) that will contain information about whether they have received Covid-19 vaccination, and if so, how many doses. If they cannot show that they have received at least one shot, they will not be allowed to enter the premises.

Who does the vaccine pass apply to?

Anyone aged 12 and above must receive at least one jab by February 24 to enter certain premises. Only people below 12 and those who have medical certificates to prove that they are unfit for vaccination are exempt from this arrangement. Starting September 30, children between the ages of five and 11 must also be vaccinated to enter establishments covered by the vaccine pass.

How many doses do I need to fulfil vaccine pass requirements?

There are three deadlines for vaccine pass eligibility:

  • Stage 1: By April 29, 2022, everyone 12 and over should have received at least one Covid-19 shot.
  • Stage 2: From April 30 to May 29, 2022, everyone 18 and over should have received their second jab. Those aged 12 to 17 must get their second jab if six months since their first jab has passed within this period.
  • Stage 3: Before May 31, 2022, anyone 12 and over who has received their second dose at least six months prior must get their third dose. Hong Kong residents who received their second dose in the past six months are exempted from the May 31 deadline. Their vaccine pass will remain valid, but only if they receive their booster shot within six months after receiving their second jab.

Anyone who is unsure about whether they have had Covid-19 should follow the same vaccination schedule as those who have not contracted the virus. This arrangement also applies to people who do not have their recovery record registered with the Department of Health (DH).

There are two deadlines for children aged between five and 11 years to keep their vaccine passes valid:

  • Phase 1: By September 30, children in this age group must receive at least one Covid-19 dose.
  • Phase 2: By November 30, children in this age group must receive their second Covid-19 shot.
Dosage schedule for vaccine pass eligibility (© GovHK)

Dosage schedule for people who have recovered from Covid-19

Hong Kong residents who have recovered from Covid-19 should observe the following dose deadlines:

  • Anyone aged 12 or above who has been vaccinated with the second or third dose prior to contracting the virus does not need to be vaccinated further. The same applies to those who have recovered from Covid-19 in the past six months.
  • Unvaccinated people over the age of 12 who have recovered more than six months ago must receive their first dose by April 29. If more than six months have passed, they must get their second shot to keep their vaccine pass valid. However, this does not apply to anyone in the 12-17 age group who has received the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.
  • Anyone over the age of 12 who has received their first dose more than six months ago and since contacted Covid-19 has to get their second jab by June 29. This does not apply to anyone in the 12-17 age group who has received the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.
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From September 30, the following conditions will apply to children aged 5-11 who have recovered from the virus:

  • Unvaccinated recovered children aged between five and 11 years old must get the first dose six months after recovery.
  • Children aged 5-11 who got the second dose before they contracted the virus or are within six months of their recovery do not need to get another shot to keep their vaccine pass valid.
  • Those in the five to 11 age group who recovered more than six months ago and who received their first dose six months ago or earlier must get the second dose to maintain their vaccine pass validity. The second-dose requirement is not applicable to recovered persons aged five to 17 who have received one dose of the BioNTech vaccine.

Recovery proof for people who have recovered from Covid-19

Starting 19 April 2022, those who have recovered from Covid-19 (whose positive test results are recorded by the government) can download a recovery QR code from the Covid-19 Electronic Vaccination and Testing Record System, the iAM Smart app, or the latest version of the eHealth app. The QR code can then be downloaded onto the LHS app.

This recovery QR code will be valid for six months from the time a person has recovered from Covid-19 and can be used as a substitute for any Covid-19 doses that they have not yet received. Rapid antigen test results are not considered valid proofs of recovery. Until June 30, those who have recovered from Covid-19 can also show proof of recovery or infection by producing:

From June 30 on, recovered persons must download their recovery QR code.

Ages 12 to 17 need to show birthday on vaccine pass

People aged 12 to 17 must have their dates of birth on their vaccination records and QR codes. There are two ways that these correct QR codes can be downloaded, depending on when the adolescent was vaccinated:

  • Vaccinated on or after April 1: The QR code will automatically include the date of birth.
  • Vaccinated with first dose before April 30: Those who have received one shot within six months of April 30 can download their updated vaccination record QR code with their dates of birth using the iAM Smart or eHealth apps from April 19.
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Where can I go with the vaccine pass?

If you have a vaccine pass, you can enter all government venues (such as libraries, public swimming pools, and museums) and the following premises:

  1. Restaurants
  2. Shopping malls
  3. Department stores
  4. Supermarkets
  5. Wet markets
  6. Hair salons or barber shops
  7. Religious establishments
  8. Amusement game centres
  9. Bathhouses
  10. Fitness centres
  11. Amusement centres
  12. Places of public entertainment
  13. Party rooms
  14. Beauty parlours
  15. Club houses
  16. Nightclubs
  17. Karaoke establishments
  18. Mahjong-tin kau premises
  19. Massage establishments
  20. Sports premises
  21. Swimming pools
  22. Hotels or guest houses
  23. Cruise ships
  24. Temporary event venues

The government has also provided details about the applicable premises for the vaccine pass, as follows.

Definition of applicable premises for the covid pass
Definitions of applicable premises (© GovHK)

For individuals

Applicable premises and what individuals need to do (© GovHK)

For business owners

Applicable premises and what person-in-charge should do
Applicable premises and what person-in-charge should do 2
Applicable premises and what person-in-charge should do (© GovHK)

Does the vaccine pass apply to schools?

All teaching and non-teaching staff at schools, people who provide on-campus services, and visitors must receive at least one Covid-19 shot by February 24, the second by April 21, and the third by May 31. It is not mandatory for children to be vaccinated to attend school.

Does the vaccine pass apply to the airport?

Anyone who has a valid ticket or boarding pass and a travel document just needs to comply with their destination’s vaccination requirements to enter the airport. However, non-passengers must have a valid vaccine pass if they want to enter the airport to say goodbye to friends and family.

What if I got vaccinated/recovered from Covid outside Hong Kong?

If you were vaccinated overseas, you must declare your non-local vaccination details in your online health arrival declaration. Upon arrival at the airport, you will receive a vaccination record QR code which can be used in place of a local vaccination record, as well as a Provisional Vaccine Pass. This is valid for 180 days from the day of your arrival.

Starting September 17, all arrivals into Hong Kong aged over 12 years old – including those from the Mainland, Macau and Taiwan – must have received two doses of a government-approved Covid-19 vaccine to qualify for this temporary pass. However, children under 11 years old can still get the pass even if they are unvaccinated.

Arrivals who have recovered from the virus can enter the city even if they have only received one dose. All they need to do is show their non-local recovery record upon entry and they’ll be given a non-local vaccination record QR code that includes details of their recovery status. This should be saved in their LeaveHomeSafe app to be scanned at premises that require a Vaccine Pass, and is also valid for 180 days.

All arrivals who enter the city can get this pass at the airport or land boundary control points. Travellers from the Mainland who are exempt from quarantine under the Come2HK and Return2HK schemes may take their ID and health declaration forms to present as proof of their arrival in Hong Kong to any of these 18 designated post offices to get their passes.

If you plan to remain in Hong Kong for longer than six months, you must get vaccinated in Hong Kong to receive a local vaccination record to keep your vaccine pass up-to-date.

Who is exempt from the vaccine pass?

You do not need to produce a vaccine pass in the aforementioned venues if you are:

  • Under the age of 5
  • Holding a medical exemption certificate (From 1 May on, these must be issued electronically by doctors via the eHealth System or Hospital Authority. Certificates missing a QR code are not valid.)
  • Placing an order for food/drink takeaway
  • Delivering or picking up an item
  • Performing necessary repairs on the premises
  • Getting vaccinated or undergoing medical treatment or compulsory testing on the premises
  • Entering or passing through to receive essential government service
  • Entering or passing through to attend court proceedings
  • Preventing physical harm to persons inside the premises
  • Being ordered to enter the premises by an officer
  • Entering or remaining on the premises with lawful authority or reasonable excuse
Details of persons exempt from vaccine pass (© GovHK)

Where does the LeaveHomeSafe app come in?

The LeaveHomeSafe app has been updated to meet the new vaccine pass requirements. After a user signs into certain premises using LHS, they will then be asked by the staff to present a QR code that contains information about vaccination records or an Exemption Certificate. Once the code is scanned, the app will display a blue QR code if the user meets the vaccination requirements for entry or has a valid Exemption Certificate. If the app does not contain either of these QR codes, the display will be red.

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From September 30, a new function will be added to the LeaveHomeSafe app by which parents of children aged five to 11 years old can store their children’s vaccination information and show it to staff before they enter premises for which their children require a valid vaccine pass.

How does the Hong Kong Health Code work with the Vaccine Pass?

The Hong Kong government has introduced a two-colour health code to monitor the activities of people in the city who contract Covid-19. Residents in Hong Kong and visitors to the city with negative PCR test results will get a blue code, which allows them to move around the city with no restrictions. Those who test positive for Covid-19 via PCR or declare positive RAT results will get a red code, which will prevent them from going to any venues covered by the vaccine pass during their five-day minimum isolation period. Once they recover from the virus, their health code will revert to blue.

How will the vaccine pass be enforced?

There’s a distinction between ‘active checking’ premises and ‘passive checking’ premises; at the former, your QR code must be presented for verification by employees when entering. At the latter, you still have to check in with your LeaveHomeSafe app, but no one will check that your QR code is valid. Officers can conduct random spot checks at these premises to make sure visitors have blue QR codes. The penalty for anyone who fails to present their vaccine proof/medical exemption certificate is $5,000.

FAQ about the vaccine pass

When did the vaccine pass plan start?

The vaccine pass arrangement started on February 24, 2022 in Hong Kong. At this stage, the government has not communicated any end date, although the regulation will officially expire on December 31, 2022.

Are children eligible for the vaccine pass?

Children below 5 years old will not require a vaccine pass, even though they now can be vaccinated starting from six months old with the Sinovac vaccine or 5 years old with the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine.

Do I need a vaccine pass to go to work?

At this stage, the Hong Kong government has not made it mandatory for employees to have a vaccine pass to go to work.

Can I walk through a mall without a vaccine pass?

Yes, you can walk through a mall on the way to work or home without a vaccine pass.

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Header image credits: CWMBOA WLAIMEU 336 via WikiCommons, CC BY-SA 4.0

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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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