Hong Kong will mandate three-day hotel quarantines for air cargo crew, as the Asian city steps up efforts to prevent any local transmission of the contagious omicron Covid-19 variant.
“We have to balance between the risk of infectious disease outbreaks and the cargo operation,” Edwin Tsui, controller of the Center for Health Protection, said at a press briefing on Tuesday in Hong Kong. He didn’t provide a start date for the new rules.
He added that the three-day quarantine should “intercept” cases on arrival, noting that the government was mulling similar measures for regular air crew.
The move comes as Hong Kong imposes increasingly stringent border control measures as the highly mutated and wildly transmissible omicron variant is spurring record case counts globally. The city is one of the only places to have avoided a delta outbreak, with no local virus spread occurring since early June.
Earlier Tuesday, local broadcaster Cable TV reported the Hong Kong government planned to extend its vaccine mandate to schools and workplaces, citing unidentified people. That move would build on inoculation requirements that already apply to bars, clubs, bathhouses, karaoke parlors and some restaurants.
The Education Bureau said in a Tuesday letter published online that it would “keep in view” the announcement of the government’s “vaccine bubble” at indoor premises, and make a “timely announcement” to schools and kindergartens about related arrangements as appropriate.
“Vaccination is a vital step in the fight against the virus and the epidemic. We encourage teachers and school staff, students and parents to continue to get vaccinated pro-actively,” it added.
Hong Kong said last week it would require government employees to present their Covid-19 vaccination records when they enter government buildings and offices for work-related purposes from mid-February. About 62% of the city’s population is fully vaccinated, according to Bloomberg’s vaccine tracker.
Teachers who have not received their first vaccination dose will be required to test every three days, rather than weekly, as of Jan. 10, the EDB wrote. Exceptions will be made for those with medical certificates proving they cannot receive a vaccination, the EDB added.
Hong Kong has maintained a zero-tolerance approach toward Covid throughout the pandemic to align with policies in China. Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam and other officials have defended it as necessary to reopen the border with the mainland, which is their priority.