Hong Kong Looks at Easing Travel for Vaccinated Residents: Lam

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Hong Kong is looking into making it easier for vaccinated residents to travel to encourage more people to get inoculated, Chief Executive Carrie Lam said in a statement on Saturday.

“We have been actively studying whether social distancing measures can be further adjusted if a certain number of people are vaccinated, and we will discuss with other regions whether we can mutually provide travel convenience to vaccinated tourists,” Lam said in an emailed release.

About 430,000 people in Hong Kong have received at least the first dose of a Covid-19 vaccine since the city began inoculating on Feb. 26, according to Lam. This accounts for 6.6% of people in Hong Kong aged 16 or older who are eligible for inoculation, she said.

The city’s vaccination campaign suffered a setback this week when it and Macau temporarily suspended shots manufactured by BioNTech SE because of packaging defects. The suspension risks eroding public confidence in the inoculation, which gave Hong Kong residents an alternative to the one made by Chinese firm Sinovac Biotech Ltd.

BioNTech and Shanghai Fosun Pharmaceutical Group Co., which has the rights to market the mRNA vaccine across mainland China, Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan, have initiated an investigation into the issue, according to statements from the Hong Kong and Macau governments.

The former British colony’s vaccine roll-out has been beset by challenges including a number of post-vaccine deaths, public distrust in the Beijing-backed government and widespread hesitation.

Hong Kong has imposed a stringent tracing and testing program and conducted 100,000 nucleic acid tests a day on average in March, according to Lam. After an outbreak in a gym near the city center this month, an average of 10 close contacts were identified for each confirmed case. About 1,500 people from the cluster were sent to quarantine centers and some 3,300 people underwent virus testing, the chief executive said in the statement.

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