- As Hong Kong drops its Covid hotel quarantine policy for the new ‘0+3’ arrangement, experts and industry leaders debate whether restrictions should be further relaxed
- Government adviser suggests scrapping all isolation requirements for arrivals if cases stabilise, as health minister warns relaxing rules too soon could cause surge in cases
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Context: Hong Kong drops Covid hotel quarantine after 2½ years
Chief Executive John Lee Ka-chiu announces scrapping of mandatory hotel quarantine
Under the new arrangement called the “0+3” model, arrivals will undergo three days of medical surveillance at home or in a hotel
After more than two years of strict Covid-19 border controls, Hong Kong has finally dropped all hotel quarantine measures for overseas arrivals from September 26. The long-awaited announcement from Chief Executive John Lee Ka-chiu marked an end to one of the world’s toughest quarantine systems during the pandemic.
Under the “0+3” plan, travellers will undergo three days of home medical surveillance. During this time, they can go out, but they are not allowed to visit high-risk premises such as bars and restaurants.
The new plan replaces the previous “3+4” initiative, which meant three days of hotel quarantine and another four under medical surveillance for arrivals. Hong Kong’s social-distancing rules and its mask mandate will remain in force.
The government had previously faced mounting calls from health experts and business leaders to ease travel measures. These groups warned that the city’s tough border rules could cause it to lose its competitiveness and talent as neighbouring cities continued to open up.
The city’s chief executive had earlier said his administration was determined to reconnect the city with the world and reduce inconvenience to arrivals.
Beijing has also offered its first clear blessing for the city to ease travel restrictions. Deputy Director of the State Council’s Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office Huang Liuquan said local authorities did not have to choose between opening up to the world and the rest of the country. Mainland China has followed a “dynamic zero policy” that is very different from other places.
Meanwhile, top microbiologist and government adviser Professor Yuen Kwok-yung also suggested Covid-19 had changed from “a highly destructive infectious disease to a milder endemic one”. Yuen added that most of the population had either been vaccinated or infected. This had greatly reduced the chances of serious cases or deaths.
List THREE reasons mentioned in Context that explain why Hong Kong has adopted the new “0+3” policy for overseas arrivals.
Refer to the first paragraph in Context. Using your own knowledge, explain why the authors describe Hong Kong’s travel curbs as “one of the world’s toughest quarantine systems”.
News: Hong Kong can consider scrapping all travel curbs if cases stabilise, experts say
Professor Ivan Hung says the city could do away with its current “0+3” arrangement if imported cases remain less than 5 per cent of its monthly virus tally
International business groups and industry leaders warn new scheme is not enough to lift the economy
Infectious disease experts have suggested that Hong Kong can consider scrapping all isolation requirements for inbound travellers if the number of imported coronavirus cases remains stable and local ones are kept contained.
Professor Ivan Hung Fan-ngai, a government pandemic adviser from the University of Hong Kong, said the city could drop travel curbs if the proportion of cases from overseas stayed below 5 per cent in the coming weeks.
“[If all curbs are dropped] travellers can go everywhere including restaurants after they obtain the first negative test result upon their arrival,” he told a radio programme.
Hung added the population enjoyed a significant degree of hybrid immunity, achieved when a person receives at least one Covid-19 jab and has been infected with the virus before or after vaccination.
If cases continued to fall, Hung said Hong Kong could reduce the use of its health code system, part of the medical surveillance period required for travellers that restricts them from entering venues deemed high-risk.
International business groups and industry leaders have warned that Hong Kong’s relaxation of Covid-19 travel curbs does not go far enough towards reviving the economy. They called for an end to all monitoring requirements for arrivals. These groups said the “0+3” arrangement still discouraged holding large-scale events and would not have many benefits for the restaurant or tourism industries.
Gianna Hsu Wong Mei-lun, the chairwoman of the Travel Industry Council, said: “If they [tourists] can’t dine out or have nightlife entertainment for a few days, what’s the point of visiting Hong Kong?”
When asked if rules for arrivals or social-distancing measures could be further relaxed, Dr Chuang Shuk-kwan of the Centre for Health Protection said the government hoped to reduce inconvenience to the public while keeping the effectiveness of anti-epidemic measures. But it was unlikely the virus could be eliminated entirely in the community as Hong Kong was an open city, she argued.
Based on Professor Hung’s advice, under what circumstances could Hong Kong drop all isolation requirements for arrivals?
Identify THREE groups that do not benefit much from the “0+3” arrangement. Explain why.
What concerns might Dr Chuang have about further relaxing rules for arrivals?
Based on your understanding of News, what does the “0+0” on the signboard refer to?
A “zero-sum game” is a situation in which one group can win only by causing another group to lose. For the man in the black suit, what might be his opinion on Hong Kong’s Covid-19 travel restrictions?
Issue: Health minister warns Hong Kong hospitals could become overstretched if city removes all travel curbs
Secretary for Health Lo Chung-mau raises concerns about further easing travel restrictions
Lo warns a spike in new imported infections would “increase the risk of community transmission and place an added burden on the city’s healthcare system”
Hong Kong is not ready to lift all travel restrictions, the city’s health minister has warned, arguing that relaxing the rules too soon could lead to a surge in coronavirus cases that would once again overstretch public hospitals.
Secretary for Health Lo Chung-mau last month said creating “a road map to resume normality” would be difficult as the government needed to remain prepared for the possible emergence of new Covid-19 variants.
“The Hong Kong government ... has to ensure that the road we are walking on is a safe one,” he told a television programme.
The recent downward trend in Covid-19 cases has prompted health experts to suggest authorities should consider scrapping all travel rules if the proportion of imported cases remained below 5 per cent of all infections recorded in the coming few weeks.
But Lo warned that if the number of arrivals rose to roughly 50,000 per day after all travel curbs were removed, the number of new imported infections could reach as high as 1,500. That would increase the risk of community transmission and place an added burden on the city’s healthcare system, he added.
“If we changed to zero [restrictions], the number of imported cases may be twice as many, or three, four or even tenfold,” Lo said. “There are also a number of new virus variants overseas.”
Before becoming health minister in February, Lo cautioned that living with the coronavirus would only “lead people to the land of the dead”. Asked whether his stance had shifted with the launch of the “0+3” plan, he said that circumstances had changed from earlier, with the city now boasting a higher vaccination rate and greater epidemic-response capabilities.
Suggest THREE measures the Hong Kong government could take to address Lo’s concerns in Issue, while considering Hung’s suggestions in News.
What did Lo mean when he said that the Hong Kong government “has to ensure that the road we are walking on is a safe one”? What groups might benefit from Lo’s approach? Explain using News and Issue.
List THREE reasons mentioned in Context that explain why Hong Kong has adopted the new “0+3” policy for overseas arrivals. The city needs to remain competitive and retain talent. / Beijing offered its first clear blessing for Hong Kong to ease travel restrictions. / Covid-19 has become milder and less destructive. / Most of the Hong Kong population have either been vaccinated or infected. (any three)
Refer to the first paragraph in Context. Using your own knowledge, explain why the authors describe Hong Kong’s travel curbs as “one of the world’s toughest quarantine systems”. While many places have opened up and dropped travel restrictions already, travellers to Hong Kong still had to abide by certain rules such as mandatory hotel quarantine until most recently.
Based on Professor Hung’s advice, under what circumstances could Hong Kong drop all isolation requirements for arrivals? Imported and local cases should remain stable, and the proportion of imported cases must stay below 5 per cent even when the “0+3” policy is removed.
Identify THREE groups that do not benefit much from the “0+3” arrangement. Explain why. Those in the tourism, restaurant and large events industries do not benefit much from the arrangement. This is because “0+3” does not allow people to go to restaurants in the first three days of their arrival in Hong Kong, so they are less likely to choose to travel here. Large-scale events are also still discouraged.
What concerns might Dr Chuang have about further relaxing rules for arrivals? Chuang might be concerned about how the city’s existing Covid-19 measures can remain effective when all travel curbs as removed.
Based on your understanding of News, what does the “0+0” on the signboard refer to? It refers to complete free movement in the city upon arrival in Hong Kong without any home medical surveillance.
A “zero-sum game” is a situation in which one group can win only by causing another group to lose. For the man in the black suit, what might be his opinion on Hong Kong’s Covid-19 travel restrictions? He might be in favour of Hong Kong dropping all Covid-19 travel restrictions. He could be implying that the city’s recent policy changes have come at the cost of its people, businesses and economy.
Suggest THREE measures the Hong Kong government could take to address Lo’s concerns in Issue, while considering Hung’s suggestions in News. The government could consider setting up a trial period for “0+0” involving only travellers from low-risk countries. It could eliminate the period when arrivals are not allowed in places such as bars and restaurants, while extending the self-monitoring period. It could allow the “0+0” arrangement for inbound travellers who obtain a negative PCR test result 48 hours before boarding their flight to the city.
What did Lo mean when he said that the Hong Kong government “has to ensure that the road we are walking on is a safe one”? What groups might benefit from Lo’s approach? Explain using News and Issue. He means that the government has to carefully consider the dangers of fully opening the city and removing all travel curbs. He is implying that priority should be placed on the health of residents and the welfare of those in the healthcare system to ensure. Groups that benefit from this approach are healthcare workers, immunocompromised people and those who are in need of hospital services.
arrivals must undergo three days of medical surveillance at home or in a hotel, during which they are free to go out but cannot enter places such as eateries and bars. This is followed by four days of self-monitoring, when arrivals must self-conduct a rapid antigen test (RAT) daily and undergo three polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests. They will also be allowed to take a RAT instead of a PCR test within 24 hours of departure.
when a group of people are infected with a disease despite having had no known contact with someone infected
describes a disease present permanently in a region or population. This is different to a “pandemic” which describes worldwide spread of a new disease.
health code system
Hong Kong’s “Leave Home Safe” app issues a red code to Covid-19 patients and an amber one for those uninfected undergoing medical surveillance. The code changes to blue once travellers have completed the medical surveillance period, allowing them to move freely in the city.
rules intended to prevent spread of a contagious disease. Hong Kong’s Covid-19 rules from September 5 to October 5 include: banning gatherings of more than four people in public places; mandatory mask-wearing in public transport and public places.
recent downward trend in Covid-19 cases
refers to daily coronavirus cases in Hong Kong falling since reaching a peak of about 10,000 daily cases in early September