Coronavirus Hong Kong: new QR code for recovered residents will be accepted for vaccine pass, officials reveal, as at-home vaccination bookings open for elderly and disabled

·5-min read

Residents who have recovered from Covid-19 can download electronic proof of their health status from a government website and use the information to enter premises in Hong Kong covered by the vaccine pass starting from Tuesday, officials have revealed.

The launch of the record came as health authorities reported 600 coronavirus infections, the fifth straight day where cases were below the 1,000 mark, and 17 deaths related to the virus. Fourteen students and a teacher were among the newly infected, and they were identified during tests carried out as in-person classes resumed following a three-month suspension.

The new QR code, available at www.evt.gov.hk, would be valid for six months from the date of the resident’s recovery and could serve as a substitute for one dose of a vaccine required under the pass scheme, said Dr Edwin Tsui Lok-kin, controller of the Centre for Health Protection. After that, residents would need to get the doses required under the pass.

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“Does it mean I don’t need to get vaccinated for six months? I think they are two different concepts. As ever, if residents want to protect themselves … they can get vaccinated after 28 days of recovery,” he said.

Tsui noted that people who were unsure whether they had been infected in the past would not be able obtain the document, adding that they could safely get a vaccine shot 28 days after recovering.

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Tsui said a “transition period” would last until June 30, during which recovered residents would still be allowed to use other documents such as hospital discharge papers or positive PCR test result notifications for the vaccine pass. But a photo of a positive rapid test result would not be considered valid.

Residents must submit their HKID or passport number, or their date of birth, the month of their Covid-19 infection or discharge from hospital to obtain the electronic proof.

The document can also be downloaded from government apps such as “iAM Smart” or “eHealth” and incorporated into the “LeaveHomeSafe” risk exposure app to show business owners or restaurant operators on entry.

A blue frame around the proof of recovery in the contact-tracing app would indicate it was still valid, while red would mean the six-month validity period had ended, according to Deputy Government Chief Information Officer Tony Wong Chi-kwong.

But the system has already run into problems. Residents who made use of a late submission mechanism to report a backlogged infection to authorities found they could not obtain a record of recovery on Tuesday. The Department of Health said those residents could contact its hotline at 2569 5777 for help.

Also on Tuesday, online bookings opened for door-to-door Covid-19 vaccination services for elderly residents and people with disabilities across four to five districts a week.

But a leading health expert called on the government to expand the scheme – which only offers the Chinese-produced Sinovac jab – to include the BioNTech vaccine, as the German-made drug required a shorter time period between the first and second doses.

Unvaccinated residents aged 70 or above and people with disabilities can register for the service online or by a hotline that operates from 9am to 8pm daily.

Secretary for the Civil Service Patrick Nip Tak-kuen, who heads the city’s vaccination drive, said authorities would arrange for the service after consolidating appointments from each district. The aim is to cover first jabs for targeted residents in all 18 districts within a month, at a rate of four to five districts per week.

Patrick Nip, head of the civil service. Photo: Edmond So
Patrick Nip, head of the civil service. Photo: Edmond So

Nip revealed that 150,000 elderly people aged 70 or above remained unvaccinated, while each outreach medical team could inoculate three to four people an hour.

He explained on a radio programme that only the Sinovac vaccine was provided at the moment because its logistical arrangements were simpler, but BioNTech might come into the picture at a later point depending on residents’ preference.

“Providing door-to-door BioNTech vaccination services is technically achievable, but this requires more detailed planning, especially to determine the dosage and timing of shots, as well as to arrange for storage after dilution,” he said.

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University of Hong Kong microbiologist Ho Pak-leung told another radio show the BioNTech vaccine would make the programme more efficient, as the German-made jab required only three weeks between its first and second doses – one fewer than Sinovac.

“I hope that the government can provide the BioNTech vaccine as soon as possible, they should not leave it until the next term of the administration,” he said. “The effectiveness of the Sinovac vaccine also declines earlier. I personally recommend the elderly to get BioNTech.”

As of Monday, 92.7 per cent of Hongkongers have had their first vaccine dose, but inoculation rates among the elderly and children remained low.

According to Nip, some 70 per cent of children aged five to 11 had taken their first shot, but this mark for those aged three and four hovered at only 40 per cent.

Nip admitted that the vaccination rate among children had plateaued, expressing hope to further boost coverage by arranging more outreach services at schools after class resumption.

The tally of Covid-19 infections stood at 1,199,038, with 9,176 related fatalities.

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