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Coronavirus: Hong Kong’s ‘zero infection’ policy unsustainable, expert warns, urging elderly to get vaccinated; 5 imported cases expected

August 22, 2021 GMT

Hong Kong’s coronavirus strategy of “zero infections” cannot be for the long term, a health expert has warned, urging more elderly people to get vaccinated to create better conditions for the easing of pandemic control measures.

Professor Ivan Hung Fan-ngai, co-convenor of the Expert Committee on Clinical Events Assessment Following Covid-19 Immunisation, said in a televised interview on Sunday that the city could further relax social-distancing rules once 80 to 90 per cent of the population had been inoculated.

Hung’s ramped-up calls for vaccination came with the city expecting five imported infections, according to a source.

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“We can maintain the zero-infection streak, but Hong Kong cannot isolate itself forever as we are an international business hub. Our strategy needs to change over time,” Hung said. “But without achieving a very high vaccination rate of up to 90 per cent, we don’t have the conditions to open up,” he added.

On Saturday, health minister Sophia Chan Siu-chee said the city had ditched travel talks with other places due to differences in strategies for containing Covid-19. She added that the government was still aiming to strike a balance between residents’ expectation of “zero infections”, while avoiding becoming “completely cut off” from the outside world.

The long-awaited travel bubble with Singapore was ditched for good on Thursday, after the city state moved towards a policy of “living with the virus”, in contrast to Hong Kong’s stricter approach.

The Commerce and Economic Development Bureau later said it would continue to communicate with places that had close economic ties to Hong Kong to facilitate travel during the pandemic.

Meanwhile, health authorities are still engaged in a concerted effort to raise vaccination rates in the city, with only 41.3 per cent of 7.5 million residents fully vaccinated. Among the elderly, who are the most vulnerable, the rate of immunisation remains low, with only about 24 per cent of those aged 70 to 79, and 6.86 per cent of those aged 80 and above fully vaccinated.

Hung on Sunday reiterated the jabs were safe for elderly people, with under 2 per cent of those who had received vaccines suffering from serious side effects such as facial paralysis or strong allergic reactions. He added that his committee had ruled out links to vaccines in 22 out of 27 cases of deaths following a Covid-19 shot.

The official infection tally on Saturday stood at 12,052 with 212 related fatalities.

This article originally appeared on the South China Morning Post (SCMP), the leading news media reporting on China and Asia. For more SCMP stories, please download our mobile app, follow us on Twitter, and like us on Facebook.

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