No untraceable coronavirus infections for 14 days is the goal Hong Kong has been set by Beijing before border restrictions with the mainland can be loosened. Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor on Tuesday said the city had that target within reach, raising hope that we could soon emerge from the Covid-19 pandemic wilderness. That would be a landmark moment after 16 months of restrictions, bringing the possibility of an economic turnaround. But these are still fragile times, as a resurgence of the disease in Taiwan and Singapore proves, meaning that there is still every need for vigilance. Hong Kong’s Covid-19 record in recent weeks would be the envy of many a government; since May 4, there have been eight local infections, only one of them untraceable, and a further 31 that were imported. The single case is still under investigation. Testing of close contacts could determine the origin, enabling quarantining to stop the spread of the virus. It is a proven strategy and is the reason for mandatory screening of at-risk groups such as domestic helpers and nursing and elderly care home staff who are not fully vaccinated. Vaccination is the key to pre-Covid-19 normality. Coupled with strict social distancing, testing and isolating, it will help Lam attain her stated goal of “zero local infections”. She acknowledged on Tuesday how close the city was to that target, but no matter how much the desire for normal activity, safety can never be sacrificed. That was the reason for a second postponement of a travel bubble with Singapore, now battling a dozen clusters, and a tightening of hotel quarantining for visitors from Taiwan, gripped by its worst-yet outbreak. Singapore and Taiwan had previously been hailed internationally for their coronavirus-fighting measures, but as the outbreaks show, letting guards down even momentarily has serious repercussions. In Taiwan’s case, low vaccination rates ensured that imported infections that made it into the community as a result of suspected screening loopholes were able to rapidly spread. With Hong Kong having learned the hard way from such experiences, its strategy has been honed to focus on vaccination and vigilance. Unless this is faithfully followed, plans for cross-border travel could be easily upset by even a single untraceable infection. Hong Kong ‘within reach of zero local infections’; one imported Covid-19 case confirmed If that goal is reached for at least 14 days, there is every chance of Hong Kong allowing mainland arrivals without the need for quarantine and mandatory vaccination. For now, that arrangement is not reciprocal, but the rules could change if Hong Kong strives harder. Our vaccination rates still remain far behind those of the mainland and Macau. Greater practical incentives from the government and the private sector could boost numbers and help the cause.