Hong Kong Vaccine Bookings Double After Lam Offers Benefits

Bookings for coronavirus vaccinations jumped in Hong Kong as the government said it could ease social-distancing rules for inoculated people in a bid to encourage more of the population to sign up for shots.

About 13,500 people made online reservations for Pfizer Inc.-BioNTech SE vaccinations at community centers in the 24 hours to 8 p.m. Monday, and another 3,300 signed up for the Sinovac Biotech Ltd. shot, the government said in a statement. The bookings, which include first and second doses, were about double the number from the previous day and don’t include private clinics.

Hong Kong Vaccine Bookings Double After Lam Offers Benefits

Chief Executive Carrie Lam said Monday that “vaccine bubbles” might be considered if more people are inoculated, meaning restrictions on places such as restaurants and bars could be loosened for them. For now, social-distancing measures that limit restaurant dine-in options and have shuttered bars will remain in place until April 28.

Hong Kong Vaccine Bookings Double After Lam Offers Benefits

Hong Kong’s approach would expand benefits for vaccinated people while persisting with restrictions for those who haven’t been inoculated. Restaurants, for example, can set aside “clean zones” where vaccinated customers can gather in greater numbers than the maximum of four currently allowed.

“For customers who want to go into this area and enjoy eight-person tables, then they have to be vaccinated, and the staff serving this area, this delineated area, have all to be vaccinated,” Lam said.

In Israel, which has led the way in returning life to close to normal, a so-called green pass is issued to those who have completed their vaccine course or recovered from infection. The pass grants access to venues such as gyms, hotels and swimming pools. The U.K. has begun easing its lockdown after Prime Minister Boris Johnson set out a three-month target for fully lifting restrictions.

Hong Kong Vaccine Bookings Double After Lam Offers Benefits

“I don’t think our so-called incentives plan is complicated,” Lam said at another briefing Tuesday morning, adding that strategies must be tailored to local needs.

“What we need now is to promote vaccination in Hong Kong,” she said. “The government has to come up with stronger incentives which are important, not only for promoting vaccination, but also to allow Hong Kong to go back to normality in a gradual and orderly manner.”

While pandemic hotspots like the U.S. and U.K. are rapidly inoculating people, many Asia-Pacific governments are facing a hesitant public following reports of side-effects and deaths. Only about 8% of the population in Hong Kong has come forward for a shot, compared with 37% of London residents who’ve received their first dose, 33% in New York City and 20% in Singapore, Bloomberg’s Covid-19 Vaccine Tracker shows.

Hong Kong’s vaccination drive received another blow last month, when packaging defects were found on BioNTech shots, leading to a temporary halt in those vaccinations.

About 877,900 vaccine doses in total had been administered to the Hong Kong public as of Monday. A second shipment of some 300,000 BioNTech doses arrived in Hong Kong on Tuesday morning, the government said in a statement.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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