Coronavirus: Hong Kong delays plan to ease rules on unvaccinated students arriving from UK

  • The government was last week preparing to allow vaccinated arrivals from places deemed at high risk of Covid-19 to return to the city, as well as students without vaccinations from Britain
  • But officials have postponed the proposal in hopes of resuming quarantine-free travel across the border with mainland China
South China Morning Post |

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Hopes of students in Britain and their families in Hong Kong have been dashed, as officials delay plans to allow the stranded pupils to return to the city. Photo: SCMP / Xiaomei Chen

The Hong Kong government has postponed its controversial plan to allow fully vaccinated residents from places deemed at high risk of Covid-19 to return to Hong Kong , the Post has learned. The latest update has dashed the hopes of unvaccinated students stranded in Britain – who, under this proposal, would have been allowed to come back to the city.

Sources said Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor told her top advisers on Tuesday the scheme had been put on hold for now and resuming quarantine-free travel between the mainland and Hong Kong would remain the top priority.

“The chief executive thinks it is still very risky to allow vaccinated residents to return from these ‘high-risk’ places at the moment, as there were cases with variants from time to time,” one insider said. “These imported cases would also affect the border reopening plan with the mainland.”

Hong Kong’s aggressive pandemic-control measures have resulted in a nearly six-week run without any local infections, and the government is regularly assessing countries in terms of the risk they pose as sources of imported cases.

Currently the group of extremely high-risk places, known as Group A1, contains Brazil, India, Indonesia, Nepal, Pakistan, the Philippines, South Africa and Britain. People from these countries are banned from directly flying into Hong Kong and must spend at least three weeks somewhere else before they can enter.

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Having tamed community transmissions, the government is now hoping to restart talks with mainland provincial authorities and Beijing on reopening the border, but Lam has admitted little progress has been made.

It also remains unclear when the government would move forward with its plan to grant entry to people coming from higher-risk places who had approved vaccination records.

A separate source last week told the Post that authorities were planning to allow fully inoculated residents and workers from extremely high-risk nations to return, provided Hong Kong recognised their jab certification.

Under the scheme that was being floated, unvaccinated students stranded in Britain would also be allowed to reunite with their loved ones in Hong Kong over the summer holiday.

The arrangement was to be introduced this week, but the proposal was met with sharp criticism by members of the pro-establishment camp and health experts. They warned the relaxations could undermine the city’s hard-fought success in controlling Covid-19, with one calling the idea “extremely dangerous”.

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