With the Covid-19 epidemic seemingly stabilising in recent months, it would seem fair for Hong Kong authorities to further ease some of the curbs. Yet a contact tracing app that has been in use for a year is to become mandatory for visiting government premises starting from next month. If the move is, as critics say, paving the way to link the app with the mainland-style health code for the resumption of quarantine-free cross-border travel, the government should make clear how it can be done. Announcing the change on Thursday, officials said the current alternative of allowing citizens to manually fill in contact information in a form may result in incomplete or false details, thereby compromising efforts to curb an outbreak in the event of infection. The global prevalence of the virus and the high transmissibility of mutant strains were also cited as the reasons to mandate the use of the “Leave Home Safe” app when entering government buildings. “Unwillingness to use the app will not be considered as justification for granting exemption,” the government says. Private enterprises are also encouraged to follow suit. That the app has millions of downloads over the year suggests many people have no problem using it. This is not just confined to visiting libraries, swimming pools and other government properties but also private premises, such as restaurants and shopping malls. However, the use of manual registration by some people also means the app is not fully embraced by the community, be it out of privacy concerns or lack of a smartphone. Covid-19 health code: how Hong Kong can reopen the mainland border There are those who are unconvinced by the arrangements. It remains unclear how many people have been tracked down for tests and quarantine since the app was launched. It makes little sense to mandate scanning when alerts arising from confirmed infections can be ignored by users. The exemptions provided for the elderly and children are also open to question. If the authorities have no problem allowing them to fill in the forms manually, there is no reason why others cannot be allowed to do so. Concerns have also been raised that the homeless and other welfare recipients who need to use public facilities and visit government offices regularly may be inconvenienced. Similarly, would public toilet, wet market and hospital visits also come under the new rule? Whether the change is a step towards linking the app with the mainland contact tracing health code remains to be seen. Given the differences in anti-epidemic measures and the priority to reopen the border, the city inevitably needs to make efforts to narrow the gap. Officials need to clarify whether this is part of the strategy, and if so, how the queries and logistical issues can be overcome.