- Currently, one positive case of the mutant coronavirus strain means the entire building must isolate for three weeks in a government centre
- Health experts have warned against the move, saying fully-vaccinated people can still transmit the virus
Health authorities will shorten the quarantine period for fully vaccinated close contacts of Covid-19 patients under revised arrangements to be announced as early as Friday.
News of the policy change came on Thursday, even as authorities ordered the lockdown of a public housing block in Chai Wan – the eighth building to be placed under quarantine orders in three weeks – after a resident tested preliminary-positive for a mutated strain of the coronavirus.
The latest case was linked to a recent cluster of variant infections.
The overnight lockdown order required hundreds of residents of Fung Hing House in Hing Wah (II) Estate to undergo mandatory testing from 9pm. The testing was expected to end at 7am on Friday, and residents were likely to be sent to quarantine facilities afterwards.
Thousands have signed petitions involving two other buildings caught up in similar lockdowns, to fight against rules under which everyone in a block in which a single variant infection is found will be sent to quarantine camps for 21 days.
Dozens of residents from the Royalton I private housing estate in Pok Fu Lam were allowed to stay home for the time being, after refusing to leave.
According to sources, the plan to shorten quarantine for fully vaccinated people will apply to those who have received their second dose at least 14 days earlier.
It is not immediately clear whether the rule change will apply to close contacts of regular Covid-19 cases, who have to be quarantined for 14 days, or also to those exposed to people with variant infections. The length of the shortened quarantine period is also not clear.
Some experts have warned against such a move by the government. Respiratory medicine specialist Dr Leung Chi-chiu cautioned that it would be a “dangerous move” to shorten quarantine for fully vaccinated people, pointing out that vaccines could not offer complete protection against transmission of the coronavirus.