All overseas travellers flying into Hong Kong’s airport will be required to undergo rapid testing in addition to a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) screening from Monday, in a move authorities have said would enable the early identification of Covid-19 cases. The announcement on Friday came as long queues formed outside post offices for a second straight day as people who had received Covid-19 jabs outside the city sought to obtain a temporary vaccine pass, sparking calls for the government to quickly roll out an online declaration system instead. Health authorities reported 324 new infections, of which 29 were imported, and 11 additional deaths related to the virus. The city’s coronavirus tally stood at 1,206,041 infections and 9,344 related fatalities. Despite the recent easing of travel restrictions to allow international visitors to fly into the city for the first time in two years, the European Chamber of Commerce complained in a letter to Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor on Wednesday that the entry regime remained a “nightmare”. “Almost daily, our members and other residents have been reporting that they are unable to find their way back to Hong Kong or see their business travel being cancelled,” it said. Hong Kong experts warn ‘loophole’ in Covid-19 self-reporting risks death The chamber urged authorities to switch out the use of PCR tests at the airport in favour of rapid antigen tests (RAT). The group also called for the removal of the flight suspension mechanism, which is triggered if a plane carries five infected passengers, or 5 per cent of its occupants, whichever is greater. But a government spokesman said all travellers from Taiwan and overseas arriving at Hong Kong’s airport would also be required to undergo rapid testing from May 9. “The arrangement can ensure risks of importing cases remain tightly controlled, while further shortening the waiting time for arrivals at the airport,” he said. If a traveller tests positive after rapid or PCR testing, they will be transferred to a designated hotel for isolation or admitted to hospital for treatment, while those who receive negative results will be allowed to proceed to their chosen quarantine hotel. Inbound travellers, both Hong Kong residents and visitors, who have been inoculated twice outside the city, can also declare their non-local jab or recovery records to authorities from Thursday to receive a provisional vaccine pass. Arrivals can declare their non-local vaccination details when making their health and quarantine declaration on the Department of Health’s online platform. Officers at control points will check their vaccination record and issue the compulsory quarantine order and vaccination record QR code for local use. Those who have already arrived in Hong Kong or are not subject to compulsory quarantine, including people entering via the “Return2hk”, and “Come2hk” schemes, can declare their arrival information through the 18 designated post offices to obtain the pass. Meanwhile, at least 100 people waited in the morning to get the QR code document, which can be used under the city’s vaccine pass scheme for entry to premises such as restaurants, shopping centres and supermarkets. At Sha Tin post office, merchandiser Thomas Ng, 48, said he arrived early at 7.15am ahead of the 9am opening to get his vaccination records verified but complained the system was chaotic with unclear government instructions. More than 6,000 workers at Hong Kong’s Covid facilities ‘set to become jobless’ Ng received his first and second doses of a vaccine in Beijing in February and April last year. He returned to Hong Kong last December but only realised recently that he needed to verify his records as he was barred from entering restaurants this month. “I need to get the pass. Otherwise, I won’t be able to enter restaurants. It is not logical. The government should have documented and verified my first two shots when I received my third dose in Hong Kong. Then, all the confusions could have been avoided,” he said. “Everything was chaotic. The logistics were unclear. There was no sign telling how to submit my application. I tried calling the health authorities and the post office the previous day, but no one answered my phone calls.” Also queuing at Sha Tin post office was university student Sally Chen, 25, who received her first two jabs in Shenzhen in April and May last year, and her third dose in Hong Kong in December. She said she started to line up at 8am and waited until 9am to get a ticket under a quota system. Vaccination records can be checked at 18 designated post offices. “Then, I returned at 11am for the registration. I think the arrangements were quite smooth, but I don’t understand why I had to get a ticket in the first place, while the registration process took only a few minutes,” Chen said. “I came here today because the government closed its online registration system earlier. If I had registered online, I wouldn’t have to come here. I had to free up an entire morning, which was quite a hassle.” Lawmaker Gary Zhang Xinyu, for the New Territories North constituency, called on the government to quickly relaunch its online registration system for those who had received shots outside Hong Kong to obtain the temporary vaccine pass in a bid to ease the burden on the post offices. “We visited a lot of post offices on Hong Kong Island, Kowloon and New Territories [on Thursday] from 9am and found that many people queued up there. Some people told me they started lining up at 7am but very quickly the daily quotas were filled,” he said. “The government shouldn’t put this burden on the post offices. It may affect their delivery of postal services. It should roll out its online system quickly and improve its digitalisation service.” Cheuk Son, the chairman of the Union of Hong Kong Post Office Employees, said long queues formed at most of the city’s post offices, especially North Point and Central. “Some people had to queue up for a long time and they easily got agitated. Even though we’ve enhanced our manpower, the number of counters remains the same so it doesn’t help ease the long queue,” he told a radio programme. “Does the government need to consider extending post office opening hours?” Coronavirus can develop resistance to drug remdesivir, lab tests show The government on Thursday said it was updating the system with a view to reintroducing an online platform for the declaration of non-local vaccination records with details to be announced as soon as possible. It said Hongkong Post had deployed manpower and increased service counters. From Friday, the daily quota has doubled from 1,200 cases to 2,400. It will be further increased to 3,000 from next week onwards. Under the second phase of the vaccine pass, which commenced on April 30, residents aged 12 or above must have received their second jab, and their third or booster shot by May 31 when the third phase starts. Hong Kong legislature passes HK$700 billion budget with tax breaks, subsidies Recovered Covid-19 patients do not need to take a booster shot. They can use their recovery record QR code, which serves as a substitute for one dose of a vaccine. The Social Welfare Department also announced on Friday that residents would be able to visit care homes for elderly and disabled residents from May, provided they have received two doses of a coronavirus vaccine and provide a negative RAT result. Visitations for a centre will be unavailable if the location reports any infections among residents or staff on the day. The department added that residents at care homes will undergo PCR tests in phases, with the first round to cover 89 centres.