Coronavirus: Hong Kong releases list of 10 vaccines approved for travellers arriving in city, eases strict quarantine rules

·4-min read

Hong Kong eased its strict 21-day mandatory hotel quarantine for most vaccinated travellers on Wednesday, while health authorities have released a list of 10 approved coronavirus vaccines for inbound arrivals.

Five Chinese-made and produced vaccines were among those on the approved list, including the single-dose, protein-based vaccine from Sinopharm which has two versions – one developed by the Beijing Institute and another in partnership with the Wuhan Institute.

The Sinopharm vaccine was the only Chinese-made Covid-19 vaccine approved for emergency use worldwide by the World Health Organization (WHO) as of last Friday.

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CanSino Biologics’ single-dose jab, developed in partnership with China’s Academy of Military Medical Sciences, and the three-shot vaccine developed by Anhui Zhifei Longcom Biopharmaceutical and the Institute of Medical Biology at the Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences were also on the list.

Hong Kong will also recognise the vaccination records of travellers inoculated with the Pfizer-BioNTech and Sinovac jabs, which were also being administered in the city’s inoculation drive.

Sinovac has been approved for emergency use in Hong Kong, and other places such as the Philippines and Thailand, but is not on the WHO’s list.

The two-shot AstraZeneca vaccine, produced by the British-Swedish company and designed by the University of Oxford, and the single-dose coronavirus vaccines developed by J&J’s unit Janssen are also included, as is the Moderna vaccine developed by the US-based company, which uses the same mRNA technology as the one from Pfizer-BioNTech.

Hong Kong has also included the two-dose Covishield vaccine manufactured by the Serum Institute of India, the locally produced version of the Oxford-AstraZeneca jabs.

Singapore, which is slated to launch the quarantine-free travel bubble with Hong Kong on May 26, is administering both the Moderna and BioNTech vaccine in its inoculation drive.

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Local health authorities announced last Friday that the 21-day hotel quarantine period for inbound arrivals would be shortened starting on Wednesday, depending on the risk classification of countries in their recent travel history.

Under the new measures, fully inoculated people arriving from low-risk countries such as Australia, New Zealand and Singapore must undergo seven days of hotel quarantine and another seven of self-monitoring. A Covid-19 test on the 12th day after arrival will also be mandatory.

Vaccinated travellers from medium- and high-risk countries, such as the United States, Canada, France, Germany and the United Arab Emirates, will now have to do 14 days of hotel quarantine, plus seven of self-monitoring, with compulsory tests on the 16th and 19th day.

People queue for their BioNTech vaccination at Sun Yat Sen Memorial Park Sports Centre in Sai Ying Pun. Photo: Nora Tam
People queue for their BioNTech vaccination at Sun Yat Sen Memorial Park Sports Centre in Sai Ying Pun. Photo: Nora Tam

But there were no exemptions for the fully vaccinated arriving from very high-risk countries, such as Ireland and Britain, who will still have to do the full three weeks in quarantine.

Meanwhile, flights from extremely high-risk countries such as Brazil, India, Nepal, Pakistan, the Philippines and South Africa remain suspended.

All travellers will also have to test negative for the virus, and be able to show certificates proving they have been fully vaccinated, though there will be no antibody testing requirements upon arrival.

The city’s 21-day mandatory hotel quarantine for all inbound travellers – one of the longest isolation requirements in the world – was implemented on Christmas Day when coronavirus variants began to emerge in Britain and Brazil in a move to limit the number of imported infections carrying mutant strains.

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So far, more than 260 Covid-19 cases in Hong Kong, most of which were imported, have been found to carry the mutated strains of the virus.

Separately, all Hong Kong residents living in mainland China have been allowed to return to the city since April 29 without undergoing 14-day quarantine if they test negative for the coronavirus under an easing of some cross-border measures.

The one-way arrangement under the “Return2HK” scheme was expanded to include a quota of 1,000 people through Hong Kong International Airport from mainland China, on top of the existing daily quotas for crossing via the Shenzhen Bay Port and the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge of 3,000 and 2,000 per day, respectively.

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