Hong Kong’s leader has pledged to negotiate with overseas governments on lifting border restrictions and bringing back international travel for residents vaccinated against Covid-19.
Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor said her administration was open to forging travel deals with other jurisdictions when she was asked on Tuesday about offering incentives to encourage more Hongkongers to take the jab.
“If we can work out mutual-recognition arrangements with other places for visitors who have received two doses [of Covid-19 vaccine] and have the immunity to travel, we will surely study and work towards a deal,” Lam said before the weekly meeting with her Executive Council advisers. “We will share with residents when we have something substantive.”
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Lam said last week that Hong Kong authorities were looking at driving up Covid-19 vaccinations in the city by offering incentives such as exempting jab recipients from certain travel restrictions and social-distancing measures.
The chief executive on Tuesday said the major motivation for people to get vaccinated should be for safeguarding their own and their family’s health, pointing to the example of local non-permanent judge Kemal Bokhary, who said on Sunday that he took the jab for the sake of his grandchild.
“To cause behavioural change, incentives are needed, but the biggest incentive should be protecting one’s health … I believe that these are some substantive incentives. I hope residents would value this vaccination programme,” she added.
Since the city kicked off its mass vaccination campaign on February 26, take-up has been relatively slow. Lam had her second dose on Monday, and shortly afterwards hit out at those spreading false information about vaccines.
“More than 360,000 people have been vaccinated so far, that’s about 6 per cent of [those eligible],” she said. “That’s not bad, but there’s surely room to do better.”
With more than 2.3 million doses already in the city, Lam said the government was trying to open up the vaccination programme to more residents when the circumstances permitted.
“The only omission is those under 30 who don’t belong to the priority groups, say about 1 million … When there is more vaccine available, the government will be willing to open up [the scheme] to everybody, ” Lam said.
Those under the age of 16 are not advised to get vaccinated.
The chief executive added she would look into some “mitigating factors” to reduce the 21-day compulsory quarantine for those travellers who had stayed anywhere outside China before arriving in the city.
Earlier, Lam said that health authorities would investigate procuring a fourth type of vaccine, which would take the eventual total to 30 million shots.
Hong Kong logged 12 new Covid-19 cases on Tuesday, three of which were tied to a cluster at the Ursus Fitness gym in Sai Ying Pun. The city’s total number of confirmed cases now stands at 11,409 with 204 related deaths.
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