In two days Hong Kong will launch the so-called vaccine pass for entry to various premises. The government is also expected to tighten social-distancing rules to limit groups in all restaurants to just two diners per table, along with an appeal to people to stay home. In hindsight we could have done with such a pass earlier. But not so long ago there was no major outbreak. Many were complacent about vaccination. We were unprepared for the scale of the fifth wave of Covid-19, with many thousands of new cases now being reported each day. The demand for testing, quarantine and hospital beds has stretched resources to the limit. The need to regroup apparently prompted some reflection among officials on their intent to launch the vaccine pass from Thursday. The decision to press ahead then is correct. Not all the mechanisms may be fine tuned, and not all the affected venues may be ready. Some people may face inconvenience. Some may need more time to obtain medical exemptions from vaccination. It remains to be seen whether the guidelines for such exemptions, which amount to a default vaccine pass, strike a fair balance or are debatable. But generally a vaccine pass is an incentive to get inoculated. The longer it is delayed the longer it will take for the unvaccinated to adjust to the reality that they cannot enter a range of places without having been jabbed – to protect themselves and others. Hong Kong confirms more than 7,500 Covid-19 cases, vaccine pass to launch in days Restaurant and clubhouse patrons will need to show their inoculation records for scanning. In shopping malls, supermarkets and the like, they will only have to check in with the “Leave Home Safe” app unless asked by law enforcement to show a vaccination record. Pressing ahead with the pass now is another way of tackling loopholes in the city’s defences. However, it is only to be expected that it raises privacy concerns. Officials at yesterday’s government briefing were called upon to address them. One gave an assurance personal data collected by scanning would be encrypted. It would be unlocked with a one-time password by the Centre for Health Protection only if needed for infection contact-tracing purposes. The official expressed confidence that personal privacy was well protected. For the sake of public confidence in a key public health measure, we trust that is so. Privacy versus public interest comes down to striking a balance. By and large the vaccine pass balances conflicting needs. If we are close to consensus about anything in this pandemic, it is that vaccination is key to finding our way out of it. The pass also protects vulnerable people, including those who have obtained exemption. The overriding priority is to stop the spread of the virus so we can buy time to build up effective defences.