• Coronavirus: Hong Kong authorities set to unveil health code system, paving way for mainland China border reopening | South China Morning Post

    Coronavirus: Hong Kong authorities set to unveil health code system, paving way for mainland China border reopening

    Hong Kong authorities are set to unveil a Covid-19 health code system on Thursday, paving the way for the long-awaited reopening of the city’s border with mainland China later this month, the Post has learned.
    Sources said the government would reveal details of the scheme, which would allow travellers to cross the border to Guangdong province and Macau without needing to undergo quarantine.The development comes after a meeting with mainland officials last week, during which the city was told it had met the “basic requirements” for border reopening, with only a few obstacles remaining, such as a health code app and further tightening of quarantine rules for aircrew.The move will bring the city more in line with mainland travel rules, but Hong Kong’s health code system is not expected to have a movement-tracking function, unlike the version across the border because of residents’ privacy concerns. A source said testing earlier this week of conversions of the Hong Kong health code to the Guangdong and Macau versions – needed when travellers cross from one jurisdiction to another – had been “very successful”, and a dry run of border openings had also been conducted and went smoothly.Francis Fong Po-kiu, honorary president of the Hong Kong Information Technology Federation, said he had learned from government and industry sources that authorities would not require all residents to integrate the existing “Leave Home Safe” risk-exposure app with the one for health codes, only travellers to the mainland would have to do so.
    To generate a health code, users will have to provide their real name and home address, as well as upload their vaccination record and Covid-19 test results.Users will have to export their visit records from the Leave Home Safe app over the past 21 days into a file, which will then be uploaded to the website. A self-filled health declaration form will also be needed.
    Once all the information is uploaded to the webpage, it will generate a colour-coded QR code, and the data will be sent to relevant government departments. The code will be scanned by border officers for those who need to travel to the mainland.Fong said he believed the Hong Kong version of the health code would not have real-time global positioning system (GPS) tracking because of technical limitations.The mainland version can store users’ travel history and generate a colour-coded warning system based on exposure risks to Covid-19 patients.Another component is the “itinerary code”, which tracks a user’s whereabouts using mobile phone signal data. This code makes use of data from three major telecoms companies on the mainland – China Telecom, China Unicom and China Mobile.It can show which countries or mainland cities a user has visited in the past 14 days. The code also captures the user’s movements with precision and stores the information for use by the authorities.
    But a code scheme has proved a controversial issue in Hong Kong, especially if it carries a movement-tracking function, over privacy concerns. The Leave Home Safe app, launched over a year ago last November, is a Covid-19 exposure notification device that allows users to scan QR codes outside buildings before entry and has since been made mandatory at government premises.Neighbouring Macau has its own health code system for border-crossing arrangements with Guangdong province and is regarded as a model for Hong Kong.Macau’s code does not have a tracking function, but generates coloured QR codes which indicate a person’s risk level based on their health status, possible contact with Covid-19 patients and travel history. The QR code, updated daily, is required to be displayed when people enter large public venues.It also allows users with negative test results to switch over to Guangdong’s health code system when they cross the border, but the two apps are not directly linked.Last Saturday, Macau launched a bus pass scheme that required passengers to register with their names to tap contactless stored-value cards when boarding a bus. Officials said the scheme could allow better Covid-19 contact tracing, and as of 10am on Tuesday, more than 165,000 people had registered online. It is uncertain this higher standard of tracing in Macau will increase pressure for Hong Kong to follow suit.


  • Coronavirus: Hong Kong further tightens quarantine rules on arrivals from 8 African nations in fight against new ‘Omicron’ variant | South China Morning Post

    Coronavirus: Hong Kong further tightens quarantine rules on arrivals from 8 African nations in fight against new ‘Omicron’ variant. City residents returning from South Africa, Botswana and six other nations must spend the first of three weeks of quarantine at a government facility
    Hong Kong has further tightened quarantine rules for its residents arriving from eight African countries following the detection of a new, highly infectious coronavirus variant, requiring them to complete the first week of their mandatory confinement in a government facility. The Centre for Health Protection said on Saturday that Hong Kong residents arriving from South Africa, Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Mozambique, Malawi, Namibia and Zimbabwe would immediately be sent to Penny’s Bay quarantine centre. The measure takes effect on Sunday.


  • Coronavirus: Singapore official hopes for quicker Hong Kong, mainland China reopening; | South China Morning Post

    Coronavirus: Singapore official hopes for quicker Hong Kong, mainland China reopening;
    Monetary Authority of Singapore chief Ravi Menon said strict border restrictions may impact business ties between the Asian financial hubs
    Elsewhere, a government council said Malaysia will reopen its borders to international visitors by January 1 at the latest
    Singapore’s central bank chief would like Hong Kong and mainland China to open up quicker and more decisively over the next year as their strict border restrictions may impact business ties between the key Asian financial hubs.“I would hope that China and Hong Kong will be able to open up faster over the next year,” Monetary Authority of Singapore managing director Ravi Menon said in a recent interview, responding to a question on whether the city state can gain from the different border situations.
    As Singapore has strong ties with both, “not being able to travel to these places without considerable frictions, does stand in the way of strengthening our business links.”The divergence between Singapore’s strategy of living with the virus and the zero-Covid policy still pursued by mainland China and Hong Kong has become more stark in recent months.
    Singapore and Malaysia agree to quarantine-free vaccinated travel lane
    8 Nov 2021 While Singapore has been establishing several vaccinated travel lanes, including with the US and parts of Europe, mainland China and Hong Kong have stuck to strict border measures, notably lengthy quarantines on arrival.Earlier plans for a travel bubble between Hong Kong and Singapore had been shelved repeatedly as the cities saw a rise in infections. Eventually, Hong Kong said it will not pursue such a travel lane due to the two cities’ differing Covid-19 strategies.Hong Kong is instead prioritising opening its borders with mainland China first. Menon said that when Singapore opens up, it wants to strengthen links to all geographies, and both mainland China and Hong Kong are important parts of these ties.
    China was the island nation’s largest merchandise trading partner last year, while Hong Kong and Singapore compete as key financial hubs in the region.“I’d very much hope that they would be able to open up more decisively over the course of next year,” said Menon. “That’d be good for Asia. That’d be good for Singapore.”


  • Coronavirus: Hong Kong may restrict movements of quarantine-exempt aircrew in light of Cathay pilots’ infections | South China Morning Post

    Coronavirus: Hong Kong may restrict movements of quarantine-exempt aircrew in light of Cathay pilots’ infections Health officials say they are worried about the infections of the two aircrew staff because they had high viral loads and were highly transmissive. But Cathay Pacific warns any tightening of cargo aircrew quarantine rules may force it to cut flights, not just harming airline but also choking city
    Hong Kong authorities may restrict the movements of local aircrew who are exempt from quarantine on their return from overseas, after two cargo pilots tested positive for Covid-19 and triggered the isolation of 120 pupils linked to the family of one of them.
    The infection of the two pilots, who were among five cases confirmed on Wednesday, sparked fears the city’s negotiations with mainland China on fully reopening the border would be delayed. But the aviation industry also hit back strongly on any potential tightening, with Cathay Pacific warning the move would disrupt the global supply chain.Local health officials expressed concern about the cases.“We are rather worried about the infections of these two aircrew members … as they had high viral load and were highly transmissive,” said Dr Albert Au Ka-wing, principal medical and health officer of the communicable disease branch at the Centre for Health Protection (CHP).Centre controller Dr Edwin Tsui Lok-kin warned the risk of community spread was “relatively high”.“We will work with Transport and Housing Bureau colleagues to further review if there is a possibility to consider further restricting the movements of exempted persons, [such as] aircrew, in Hong Kong,” he said, adding authorities would also look into “locations of isolation or quarantine”.Tsui said the government would try to strike a balance between public health needs and cargo and aviation operations.He conceded that if Hong Kong were to adopt a total closed-loop system in managing people exempted from quarantine, such as having specific transport to take arrivals back to their isolation place, much effort would be involved. Relevant government departments would need to look into the feasibility of such an approach.
    Cathay Pacific said any tightening of cargo aircrew quarantine rules could force it to cut flights, not just harming the airline but also choking the city and affecting global supply chains.“Tightening the travel restrictions for aircrew operating cargo services would significantly impede our ability to continue to mount these important flights,” an airline spokeswoman said.
    Aircrew would need to volunteer for closed-loop operations, flying for three weeks and living in airport hotels throughout, but Cathay already had a shortage of pilots and cabin crew volunteering to fly and spend considerable time in quarantine. Staff have expressed concerns about being separated from families for a long time.The bureau said it “attaches great importance to the concerned cases and will maintain close communications with the CHP and the airline”.Earlier in the day, health experts had called for tighter quarantine arrangements for aircrew to close any remaining avenues of coronavirus transmission in Hong Kong.


  • Singapore to expand its quarantine-free travel - Asia Times

    Singapore to expand its quarantine-free travel
    Fully vaccinated travelers will have to test negative for the virus before they depart and when they arrive. Singapore on Tuesday began quarantine-free entry for fully vaccinated passengers from eight countries, part of a plan to ease restrictions as the business hub gears up to live with the coronavirus.
    The latest easing expanded a program that started with vaccinated air travel lanes with Germany and Brunei last month and is now open to passengers from the United States, Canada, Britain, Denmark, France, Italy, Spain and the Netherlands. Singapore Airlines said flights from Amsterdam, London, Los Angeles and New York were scheduled to arrive Tuesday under the program.“We have seen very strong demand for our Vaccinated Travel Lane flights,” the national airline said.“This is across all cabin classes, as well as various travel segments including leisure, families and business travel.”
    Passengers arriving as part of this scheme – which will include South Korea from November 15 – will not have to quarantine if they have been fully vaccinated and test negative for the virus before they depart and when they arrive.To enable families to travel, Singapore has allowed entry to unvaccinated children aged 12 years and under if they are accompanied by someone flying under the scheme. Raj Samuel, a restaurant manager in the almost deserted tourist district, said he was “optimistic” about the potential for more business.The city-state initially fought the Covid-19 pandemic by shutting borders, imposing lockdowns of varying intensity and aggressive contact tracing. But with more than 80% of the population fully vaccinated, authorities are keen to revive the economy.“Singapore cannot stay locked down and closed off indefinitely,” Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said earlier this month when he announced a raft of measures under the “Living with Covid-19” strategy. The city-state is home to the regional offices of thousands of multi-national corporations, which rely on Singapore’s status as a business and aviation hub for their operations. Vaccinated travel is a “very significant step forward in re-establishing Singapore’s role as one of the Asia-Pacific’s leading international hubs for finance, regional headquartering and commercial aviation,” said Rajiv Biswas, Asia Pacific chief economist at IHS Markit.He added that the travel lanes – notably with the UK, the US, France and Germany – were particularly important as many international firms run large operations from the city’s financial center.
    The scheme may also provide a shot in the arm for the pandemic-hammered airline and tourism industries, analysts said. Before the pandemic, tourism accounted for about 5% of Singapore’s GDP, said Song Seng Wun, a regional economist with CIMB Private Banking.
    Statistics from the Singapore tourism board showed international visitor arrivals plunging to less than 2.8 million last year from a record 19.1 million in 2019.


  • Coronavirus: Hong Kong adds 1,500 quarantine rooms ahead of Christmas holidays as 5 more hotels join approved list | South China Morning Post

    Coronavirus: Hong Kong adds 1,500 quarantine rooms ahead of Christmas holidays as 5 more hotels join approved list

    Hong Kong officials have added five hotels to the government’s approved list of coronavirus quarantine facilities, ramping up room supply by 15 per cent ahead of an expected rush of inbound travellers over the Christmas holiday season.The administration revealed on Tuesday that a total of 40 designated quarantine hotels would provide about 11,500 rooms between December 1 and February 28, a period also covering Lunar New Year.
    Hong Kong’s expansion of the quarantine facilities from the current level of 10,000 rooms emerged as the city confirmed two new coronavirus cases carrying the L452R mutant strain on Tuesday – both imported – taking the overall tally of infections to 12,301,­ with 213 related deaths.The two cases ­involved a 51-year-old man from the United Kingdom and a three-year-old from Mongolia. Fewer than 10 preliminary-positive infections were recorded. The 36 hotels currently approved to serve as quarantine hotels – a list that is updated every three months – were booked at 84 per cent capacity from September to November, according to the Food and Health Bureau. The net increase in the number of designated hotels for the coming round is four after it was previously announced that Sheraton Hong Kong Hotel and Towers in Tsim Sha Tsui would stop running quarantine services on November 9. Michael Li Hon-shing, executive director of the Federation of Hong Kong Hotel Owners, earlier on Tuesday predicted that the government would introduce another 2,000 quarantine rooms, as he said the industry was readying for a busy time in the coming months. He noted that while the government had typically chosen mid-range and budget hotels priced between HK$600 (US$77) and HK$800 per night, adding some five-star accommodation to the mix could help meet demand among returning travellers for a higher level of service and more comfortable rooms.“I think the demand for that is not that huge, but it must have its own market,” he said. “I believe the market for rooms priced at about HK$1,000 is larger.”Last month, the Hong Kong government sent letters to about 2,000 hotels and guesthouses holding relevant licences to encourage them to join the designated hotel scheme in a bid to meet customer demand, driven by residents returning to their home city.Li said hotels considering joining the scheme had to weigh their own strategies, including whether they preferred to focus on longer-term tenants or the burgeoning “staycation” market.“They may worry that future customers could be concerned that they had been a quarantine hotel before … But they may also hope to boost the occupancy rate by becoming a quarantine facility. It’s up to the hotels’ business strategy,” he said.
    Hong Kong has imposed one of the world’s strictest policies for inbound travellers, requiring those from countries deemed high-risk – a list that includes Britain, the United States and Thailand – to complete up to three weeks of compulsory hotel quarantine.The limited supply of government-approved hotels had left thousands of travellers to the city scrambling to book rooms and rearrange flights in recent months. Meanwhile, foreign domestic helpers, who mainly come to the city from the Philippines or Indonesia, have just two options – the 409-room Silka Hotel Tsuen Wan or the government-run Penny’s Bay quarantine facility, which has 1,000 slots.
    Every room at both properties was snapped up within minutes of becoming available, as employers and employment agencies rushed to reserve slots for their workers.According to government figures, the city had a total of 315 licensed hotel properties supplying 87,318 rooms as of August.


  • Coronavirus: Singapore expands no-quarantine scheme for vaccinated travellers despite reporting record cases | South China Morning Post

    Coronavirus: Singapore expands no-quarantine scheme for vaccinated travellers despite reporting record cases
    Singapore on Tuesday began quarantine-free entry for fully vaccinated passengers from eight countries, part of a plan to ease restrictions as the business hub gears up to live with the coronavirus.This came as its health ministry reported 3,994 new Covid-19 cases on Tuesday, the highest since the beginning of the pandemic, while it recorded seven new deaths from the disease.The latest easing expanded a programme that began with vaccinated air travel lanes with Germany and Brunei last month, and is now open to passengers from the United States, Canada, Britain, Denmark, France, Italy, Spain and the Netherlands.Singapore Airlines said flights under the scheme were expected to depart from Amsterdam, London, Los Angeles and New York on Tuesday.“We have seen very strong demand for our Vaccinated Travel Lane flights,” it said. “This is across all cabin classes, as well as various travel segments including leisure, families, and business travel.”Passengers arriving as part of this scheme – which will include South Korea from November 15 – will not have to quarantine if they have been fully vaccinated and test negative for the virus before they depart and when they arrive.To enable families to travel, Singapore has allowed entry to unvaccinated children aged 12 years and under if they are accompanied by someone flying under the scheme.In the almost deserted tourist district, restaurant manager Raj Samuel said he was optimistic about the potential for more business.“I think it’s an excellent move by the country to help open up the economy … especially for the food and beverage sector,” the 36-year-old said.Kylie Jens, a 29-year-old lawyer from New Zealand based in Singapore, said she was planning to go to Britain for Christmas under the scheme.“Singapore is just such a small island, it’s nice to have a chance to get away and know that that’s possible pretty soon,” she said.
    The city state initially fought the Covid-19 pandemic by shutting borders, imposing lockdowns of varying intensity and aggressive contact tracing. But with more than 80 per cent of the population fully vaccinated, authorities are keen to revive the economy. “Singapore cannot stay locked down and closed off indefinitely,” Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said earlier this month when he announced a raft of measures under the “Living with Covid-19” strategy.“The Delta variant is highly infectious, and has spread all over the world. Even with the whole population vaccinated, we still will not be able to stamp it out,” he said. “Almost every country has accepted this reality.”The regional offices of thousands of multinational corporations are in Singapore, which rely on its status as a business and aviation hub for their operations.“We must continue to reopen our borders safely,” Lee said. “Companies and investors need to carry out regional and global business from Singapore. People working for them need to travel to earn a living.”
    Vaccinated travel is a “very significant step forward in re-establishing Singapore’s role as one of the Asia-Pacific’s leading international hubs for finance, regional headquartering and commercial aviation,” said Rajiv Biswas, Asia Pacific chief economist at IHS Markit.The scheme may also provide a shot in the arm for the pandemic-hammered airline and tourism industries, analysts said. Before the pandemic, tourism accounted for about 5 per cent of Singapore’s GDP, said Song Seng Wun, a regional economist with CIMB Private Banking. “We used to get 1.6 million tourists every month, our airport used to handle over a thousand flights a day pre-pandemic. Now it is just over 300 flights a day,” he said. Statistics from the Singapore tourism board showed international visitor arrivals plunging to less than 2.8 million last year from a record 19.1 million in 2019. Allowing in travellers without quarantine “instils a bit of fear” in some people, said Singaporean Simon Chow, 22, but added that people need to live with the virus. “At the end of the day, we’re a country that needs travel.”


  • Coronavirus: China unlikely to accept voluntary cross-border health code, Hong Kong’s sole delegate to top legislative body says | South China Morning Post

    Coronavirus: China unlikely to accept voluntary cross-border health code, Hong Kong’s sole delegate to top legislative body says The Hong Kong government has offered up a raft of new proposals aimed at easing Beijing’s concerns over its contact-tracing abilities and reopening the border for travellers. Hong Kong’s sole delegate to China’s top legislative body has warned that mainland authorities are unlikely to accept any Covid-19 health code-sharing proposal from the city for residents to cross the border without having to undergo quarantine, unless they submit contact-tracing information as a mandatory requirement.National People’s Congress (NPC) Standing Committee member Tam Yiu-chung disagreed with Secretary for Innovation and Technology Alfred Sit Wing-hang, who dismissed suggestions that a voluntary system would be unacceptable to mainland authorities.Sit revealed on Sunday that the government had submitted several options in a bid to meet strict contact-tracing requirements on the mainland, including a new platform that would allow would-be travellers to voluntarily provide information beyond that contained in the city’s “Leave Home Safe” app.“On the mainland, if your mobile phone does not have a location-based system, you are required to buy a SIM card that does, and insert it into your phone so that you can be traced,” Tam said.
    “When the mainland is so strict about contact tracing, and you come up with something that’s loose or reliant on self-responsibility, I’m afraid that they may not accept it and this will just drag on.”The veteran Beijing loyalist revealed just the day before that he had been barred from attending an NPC meeting in the capital by mainland health authorities citing the risk of infection posed by a single, untraceable coronavirus case found recently in Hong Kong.The restriction underscored the strict, zero-infection protocol insisted upon by mainland authorities for any border reopening – in addition to a health code-sharing arrangement to track Hongkongers’ movements on the other side.Hong Kong is keen to restore travel and trade links with the mainland that are vital to the city’s economic growth, but privacy concerns among many residents are preventing the city from joining the mainland’s health code system.Tam argued that it would be only logical for Hong Kong authorities and residents to accept the tried and tested system being enforced on the mainland side.“That’s the simplest way to do it … If you are concerned about privacy, you need to rethink your plans about crossing the border,” he said.No reopening of Hong Kong-mainland China border ‘before FebruaryTam was reacting to the technology minister Sit’s position when he listed out the options that the government had submitted to mainland authorities.“[The first option] would make users responsible for recording their own whereabouts … while the second option would be for the government to give them a list of places deemed high-risk over the past 14, 21 or 30 days, and let them check if they visited those locations,” Sit said in a television interview.A third option, he said, would be to allow travellers to transfer information already stored in their Leave Home Safe app to a proposed cross-border health code platform so they would not need to record their whereabouts separately.
    But that option entailed a major disadvantage, Sit conceded, as the only locations stored by the app were for premises such as commercial buildings or restaurants that displayed a QR code.“Not all places have QR codes. People do not have QR codes at their homes, so this is just an assistive tool,” he said.Secretary for Innovation and Technology Alfred Sit on Sunday dismissed the suggestion that voluntary system would be rejected by mainland officials.Sit added: “It is not technically impossible to make our [system] the same as the mainland’s … But we need to consider what is most suitable for Hong Kong as we adjust our technology and policies. As long as [both sides] have reached a consensus and made a decision … we can then work together [to achieve the goal].”Pro-establishment lawmaker Ben Chan Han-pan said Sit’s comments suggested Hong Kong officials still did not understand the mainland’s expectations.Respiratory medicine expert Dr Leung Chi-chiu offered cautious praise for the proposed health code-sharing app while noting that the mainland did not have to rely on voluntary declarations to trace people’s movements.“The first two [app] options would work for specific groups of visitors, while the third option would be effective in tracking people’s whereabouts in Hong Kong when you are allowing a large number of them to cross the border,” he said.
    “But on the mainland, while authorities also ask residents to scan QR codes at places they visit, positioning data on their mobile phones can also be used when needed.”
    Infectious disease specialist Dr Joseph Tsang Kay-yan said it was time for Hong Kong authorities to accept the realities of the mainland’s strict contact-tracing regime.“It’s just like a relationship; when one side is saying that you have to be a homeowner in the city, you can’t really say ‘I’m already renting a village house’,” he said.“If someone wants to travel to a place outside Hong Kong, he must accept the regulations there, rather than challenging them.”Stanley Ng Chau-pei, president of the pro-establishment Federation of Trade Unions, said Hong Kong would have to connect with the mainland’s health code system.The city confirmed three new imported coronavirus cases on Sunday that took its infection tally to 12,294, with 213 related deaths


  • Singapore’s vaunted health tourism under pressure - Asia Times

    Singapore’s vaunted health tourism under pressure
    Many in need of critical care have been locked out of the city-state as it tries to deal with a Covid surge
    JAKARTA – Let’s call him Jack. He is a retired engineer who lives with his wife in a rural town in Indonesia, where the big waves roll in from the Indian Ocean. He is kept alive by a US$36,000 coronary resynchronization unit (CSU) that can only be replaced in Singapore.If he can get there, that is.
    Three times now, the Singapore Health Ministry has deferred permission for him to travel to the city-state, despite a letter from his Singapore heart specialist attesting to the urgency of his case as the battery in the device winds down.Warned by his Indonesian and Singaporean doctors that Covid-19 could easily kill him, the 69-year-old Australian has already been double-jabbed with the AstraZeneca vaccine.Jack is one of hundreds of thousands of Indonesian citizens and foreign residents who spend hundreds of millions of dollars a year to get specialized – and expensive – medical treatment in Singapore that is often unavailable at home.But come a health crisis and the door has closed, with officials claiming that the island’s much-touted health system is stretched to the limit by a surprisingly sharp surge in coronavirus cases.The latest message from the Singapore Health Ministry is that waivers for overseas patients with serious health issues have been suspended until further notice – just when Singapore is allowing the first foreign tourists to enter.
    In a half-hour speech to the nation on October 9, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong did not mention foreign patients, saying Singapore would continue opening up to ensure it remained connected to the global supply chain.But in underlining the decision to drop Singapore’s zero-Covid policy and depend on its 85% vaccination record, he said the Delta-driven spike in infections could last for three to six months before it reaches the “new normal.”It is anyone’s guess how many Indonesians are in the same emergency situation as Jack. Go to a Singapore hospital or doctor’s surgery during normal times and Indonesian is spoken everywhere.“We can’t interfere because it’s at a higher level,” says one Singaporean general practitioner, who adds that his daily patients can often now be counted on one hand. “The only thing to do is to appeal through your foreign ministry.”
    Health officials cite hospitals overflowing with Covid patients as the reason for the continuing deferments. The Singapore Medical Council did not respond to a request to explain why no exception is being made for urgent foreign cases.Coronary resynchronization technology is a clinically proven treatment option for patients with heart failure, sending small electrical impulses to both lower chambers of the heart to help them beat in a synchronized pattern.Because the battery is hermetically sealed inside the CTU when it comes out of the factory, Jack’s entire device must be replaced every four years. That comes in at a cool $36,000 to $50,000.He needs only an overnight stay in hospital after an hour-long procedure to change out the device, which is now running in the “imminent replacement zone” – and has been for the past two months.After that, he will have to stay in Singapore for another eight days to allow for any necessary recalibration and to give more time for the three-inch chest incision to heal.
    Left unchanged, the device goes critical, sending out vibrations every hour until it eventually dies. That would leave Jack without any protection against a heart attack – the reason why CRU was installed in the first place.
    Singapore authorities stipulate that Indonesians who get dispensation for medical reasons must have already received two vaccinations, undergone a PCR test and can produce a chest X-ray showing they don’t have pneumonia.All this will be repeated on their arrival in Singapore, where they must go into two-week quarantine. In Jack’s case he will have to stay for another week after the procedure, and then enter eight-day quarantine on his return to Jakarta.It will be an expensive exercise for an aging retiree, who has to pay for everything himself because the insurance premium for a man with his medical issues is beyond him.“It is what it is,” he says, pointing to the $295,000 he has forked out since 2007 on Singaporean medical care. “If I get angry my blood pressure goes up. It will happen when it happens.” Paradoxically, Jack may be more at risk of getting the virus in Singapore than in Indonesia, where the official number of daily infections is now down to 1,300 from a peak level of more than 50,000 in mid-July.
    Despite its impressive vaccination record, cases have risen from as few as 56 in mid-August to the current level of 3,500 a day. More than 1,500 patients are in hospital, 300 require oxygen and 40 are in intensive care.
    Earlier indications were that even vaccinated Covid patients and those with minor symptoms were being admitted to a hospital, but new screening facilities now allow doctors to determine who needs hospitalization and who doesn’t.In mid-September, the government announced that home recovery has now been designated the default care management protocol for “more fully-vaccinated individuals.”
    Singapore has so far recorded 117,000 cases and 142 deaths, but with the shift away from the zero-Covid policy, the 16-month ban on short-term foreign visitors is finally starting to lift.The government has now opened up four “green lanes” for fully vaccinated travelers from Hong Kong, Macao, Brunei, Germany and, more recently, South Korea, none of whom have to spend time in quarantine.Singapore medical tourism has taken a huge hit since the onset of the pandemic. According to one estimate, Indonesians spend about $600 million a year on treatment in Singapore, Thailand and Australia.Much of that is in Singapore, which normally receives about 500,000 overseas patients a year, half of them coming from Indonesia alone, according to the Medical Tourism Association.Cardiac urgeries at Singapore hospitals, including heart bypasses and valve replacements, range up to S$130,000 (US$95,800); cancer treatments such as chemotherapy, radiology and immunotherapy, can cost S$234,000 (US$172,600).Market research indicates it may become increasingly difficult for Singapore to maintain its title as the region’s top medical tourism destination when Thailand and Malaysia are offering better value for money.
    While Jack is a special case, perhaps the pandemic will also persuade the Indonesian elite to have more faith in their own doctors, instead of rushing off to Singapore for treatment of maladies that can easily and effectively be handled at home.


  • Pour atteindre le « zéro Covid », Hongkong impose une quarantaine éprouvante aux résidents revenant sur l’île

    Pour atteindre le « zéro Covid », Hongkong impose une quarantaine éprouvante aux résidents revenant sur l’île. Longtemps considéré comme l’un des plus libres de la planète, le territoire est en train de se couper du reste du monde.
    Depuis fin août, les résidents de Hongkong qui rentrent de France, du Royaume-Uni, des Etats-Unis ainsi que de vingt-trois autres pays ne sont admis dans la région administrative spéciale de Chine qu’au terme de vingt et un jours d’une quarantaine éprouvante tant pour leur santé morale et physique que pour celle de leurs finances. Le voyageur doit en effet rester enfermé dans une chambre d’hôtel – l’un des trente-cinq « DQH » (« hôtels conçus pour quarantaine ») habilités par le gouvernement – sans la moindre sortie à l’air libre autorisée. Le nombre de personnes qui souhaitent rentrer à Hongkong étant bien supérieur à l’offre disponible, les délais s’allongent, les prix grimpent. Certains hôtels, surtout bas de gamme, abusent de ce filon en proposant des chambres non seulement minuscules mais aussi sales, voire insalubres. Au cours de ce séjour, le voyageur (nécessairement vacciné et ayant déjà été testé au moins deux fois au cours des quarante-huit heures qui précèdent son arrivée à l’hôtel) doit se soumettre à six tests obligatoires, qui ont lieu avec des précautions qui semblent dignes d’un laboratoire de haute sécurité. Pour les gens qui voyagent seuls, ces visites leur offrent néanmoins les seuls contacts humains de tout leur séjour, même si ces intervenants aux allures de cosmonaute ont la réputation d’être peu causants. Même la livraison des plateaux-repas est organisée de sorte à éviter toute interaction entre le personnel et les personnes placées en quarantaine. Certains hôtels exigent que ces derniers attendent deux minutes avant d’ouvrir leur porte pour laisser au personnel le temps de quitter l’étage. Une porte ouverte trop tôt ou trop longtemps, un pied posé dans le couloir ont provoqué des sanctions. « Sortir de la chambre sera considéré comme une violation des règles de quarantaine et donc un délit, passible de peines allant jusqu’à six mois de prison et 25 000 dollars de Hongkong [environ 2 800 euros] d’amende », précise le site du gouvernement.Dans la plupart des hôtels, il est en outre impossible d’ouvrir la fenêtre, ce qui accentue le sentiment de claustrophobie, les migraines, les réactions aux moisissures… « Entre la valse des plateaux-repas et l’air conditionné non-stop, on sort de là aussi pâteux et vaseux que d’un mauvais voyage en avion, qui aurait duré vingt et un jours », témoigne un jeune homme en quarantaine qui n’avait pas les moyens de s’offrir un hôtel de bon standing.Surfant sur cette niche, des entreprises se sont créées pour livrer tapis de course et vélos d’intérieur, alors que les tutos et les groupes d’entraide en tout genre sont apparus en ligne pour aider à passer cette épreuve. On y apprend l’importance de structurer ses journées, mais aussi comment élaborer un minibowling avec la réserve de bouteilles d’eau livrées en début de séjour et une orange, ou comment faire sa lessive dans la bouilloire électrique… Pour soulager leurs clients captifs, certains hôtels subventionnent une « Happy hour » sur Zoom le vendredi soir.
    La rigueur extrême dont use le gouvernement pour gérer la situation se répercute sur les compagnies aériennes, qui peuvent être suspendues pendant plusieurs semaines si elles importent un certain nombre de cas parmi leurs passagers. Par conséquent, les contrôles à l’embarquement sont devenus particulièrement tatillons. Certains passagers ont été laissés sur le tarmac pour un prénom mal orthographié, un test PCR ayant dépassé de quelques minutes le délai de soixante-douze heures ou faute d’avoir pu fournir la preuve (traduite en anglais) de la certification ISO du laboratoire qui avait réalisé leur test… Récemment, à la suite du test positif d’une hôtesse de l’air arrivée de Los Angeles, tout l’équipage du vol a été mis en quarantaine pour trois semaines dans le centre de quarantaine du gouvernement, Penny Bay. La menace d’être envoyé à Penny Bay pèse d’ailleurs désormais comme une épée de Damoclès sur n’importe quel citoyen de Hongkong. Car le gouvernement peut décider, ou non, d’isoler certains cas contacts…Le gouvernement justifie cette approche radicale par son ambition de « zéro Covid », en ligne avec le régime de Pékin mais en contraste avec la quasi-totalité des pays développés.Vendredi 8 octobre, un employé de l’aéroport a été testé positif, alors que Hongkong n’avait pas enregistré un seul nouveau cas de Covid-19 depuis cinquante et un jours. Depuis la première apparition du virus à Hongkong en janvier 2020, sur les 12 251 qu’a connus l’île, seuls 213 ont entraîné le décès des patients, pour 7,3 millions d’habitants.Ces mesures ne sont justifiées par aucune étude scientifique et dénoncées par plusieurs médecins. La chambre de commerce européenne de Hongkong a, en outre, à plusieurs reprises, averti des effets dévastateurs de cette quarantaine sur l’économie locale et sur l’image de Hongkong. Son président, Frederik Gollob, a déclaré, début octobre, qu’à cause de ces mesures, de nombreuses entreprises européennes envisageaient à présent de quitter Hongkong.Des exemptions sont toutefois prévues par la loi, notamment pour certains hommes d’affaires de haut niveau et pour les diplomates. L’apparition de l’actrice australienne Nicole Kidman, en train de faire du shopping à Central mi-août, deux jours après son arrivée à Hongkong pour le tournage d’une série, a fait scandale.
    A Canton, de l’autre côté de la frontière chinoise, c’est un « centre international de santé », un camp de quarantaine de la taille de quarante-six terrains de foot et d’une capacité de 5 000 chambres qui devrait remplacer d’ici peu les quarantaines obligatoires à l’hôtel. Et les Hongkongais redoutent que leur gouvernement, de plus en plus soucieux de faire comme la Chine, ne reprenne l’idée.


  • Coronavirus: Hong Kong airport worker tests preliminary-positive, threatening city’s 50-day streak of no local infections | South China Morning Post

    Coronavirus: Hong Kong airport worker tests preliminary-positive, threatening city’s 50-day streak of no local infections
    The man, vaccinated and regularly tested as part of his job, would be the first local case since another airport employee tested positive in AugustCity also confirms eight new imported cases, while elder care sector representative touts positive response to new jabs scheme
    A Hong Kong airport worker has tested preliminary-positive for Covid-19, potentially ending the city’s 50-day streak of zero local infections.The development emerged as an industry insider on Thursday said the government’s new pilot scheme to ramp up vaccination rates among residents of care homes for the elderly was receiving a positive response.
    Local health authorities also confirmed eight new imported cases involving arrivals from Pakistan, Nepal and the Philippines.
    A more worrying situation centred on Hong Kong Air Cargo Terminals Limited, confirming an earlier Post report that health officials were investigating one of its employees, who tested positive for the coronavirus in the morning.The 48-year-old man, who works as an airport cargo handler, had undergone weekly Covid-19 testing as part of his job requirements. He had tested negative on September 29 but a sample he submitted on Wednesday was found to be preliminarily-positive for the L452R mutant strain, the Centre for Health Protection said.He tested negative for the N501Y and E484K strains.The asymptomatic patient had no recent travel history and mainly worked at SuperTerminal 1, which handles air cargo. The man, who last worked on Thursday, was vaccinated on June 25 and July 28.In a related development, the authorities locked down Golden Glory Court, where the airport worker lives, in Sha Tin’s Golden Lion Garden at 7pm for compulsory testing of residents. The operation was expected to finish at about 6am on Friday. Hong Kong has gone 50 days without a confirmed local infection – since a 47-year-old airport lounge worker tested positive for Covid-19 in August. In that case, some experts suggested the woman might have been infected by transit passengers rather than in the community.Respiratory medicine specialist Dr Leung Chi-chiu said it was no coincidence that the last few local cases, including the lounge worker and another staff member at the cargo company, came from areas in contact with the outside world.“The airport has always been the highest-risk area due to the amount of international cargo and passengers that go through it every day,” he said.Leung said authorities should not drop their guard and keep testing airport workers twice a week, “especially if they are vaccinated”, as being inoculated would reduce symptoms and make infections harder to detect without regular screening.


  • Coronavirus: Hong Kong-mainland China border unlikely to reopen before February, government adviser says | South China Morning Post

    Coronavirus: Hong Kong-mainland China border unlikely to reopen before February, government adviser says. Negotiations on reviving travel could stretch on for four to five months, according to government adviser’s estimate. Government steps up work on developing a health code for residents that must meet Beijing’s conditions for allowing quarantine-free travel. Reopening Hong Kong’s border with mainland China will take at least four to five months of negotiations, according to a Covid-19 adviser to the local government, which is also stepping up work on developing a health code for residents that must meet Beijing’s conditions for allowing quarantine-free travel.Professor David Hui Shu-cheong said the mainland border could only reopen to Hongkongers alongside the introduction of a health code app, adding the Innovation and Technology Bureau (ITB) was looking at requiring users to share their vaccination records and 21-day travel history.“The ITB is developing a cross-border code which needs to hold records of negative Covid tests and vaccinations, and state that the [user] is not a close contact of any confirmed case,” Hui said. The groundwork for the app, which was initially based on Covid-19 screening results, was completed last year but Hong Kong’s fourth wave of coronavirus infections ended the prospect of the border reopening and the scheme was never implemented. The inability to track Hongkongers’ movements and contact-trace any infection when they cross the border has long been a major obstacle to allowing quarantine-free travel, as the city’s health code is not linked to the mainland’s because of privacy concerns.
    Secretary for Innovation and Technology Alfred Sit Wing-hang confirmed that in preparation for the border reopening his bureau would look at how to refine the app. “We will conduct a full review to ensure more effective epidemic controls,” he said.But he did not answer any questions on whether the review would look at requiring residents to share their data with mainland authorities.Government adviser Hui, however, said that mainland authorities wanted the phone numbers required for signing up for the app to be registered under users’ real names.
    Earlier, Hui said in a television interview that his estimate for how long the border negotiations would take was based on Macau’s experience of reviving travel with the mainland.Hui, a respiratory medicine expert from Chinese University, said that authorities across the border would issue Hong Kong an action list for improving its current system of coronavirus controls, with mainland health experts likely to be sent to the city to inspect progress. “As long as we can prevent the coronavirus from entering the city from abroad, ensure there is no spread of the virus within the city and step up safety controls to the same level as China’s, then I believe we will be able to reopen the border,” he said. The government adviser added he expected a second meeting between health officials and experts from both sides after talks opened on September 26. As part of the initial discussions, Hong Kong has been asked to strengthen its epidemic controls through measures such as tightening quarantine exemption rules, as well as sharing data with the mainland.Hui added the city would also have to tighten its rules on discharging Covid-19 patients from hospital.In Hong Kong, coronavirus patients can be released if their cycle threshold (CT) value is above 33, suggesting they have a very low viral level. But that system is not used on the mainland, where patients can only be discharged after twice testing negative for the virus.“In Hong Kong’s case, we have seen that if the CT value is above 33, the body is essentially producing dead viruses and we haven’t seen any transmission from such patients,” Hui said. “But China says this standard is not recognised by the World Health Organization and does not have enough basis.”


  • Les syndicats du Canada sont ébahis devant la dissolution de la HKCTU

    Les syndicats du Canada expriment leur stupéfaction et leur consternation devant la nouvelle de la récente décision de la confédération syndicale de Hong Kong (HKCTU) de se démembrer.


    #international #canada #hongkong #syndicat

  • Coronavirus: Beijing tells Hong Kong to strengthen quarantine, testing policies to secure border reopening | South China Morning Post

    Coronavirus: Beijing tells Hong Kong to strengthen quarantine, testing policies to secure border reopening.
    Hong Kong must strengthen coronavirus controls in areas such as testing and quarantine before the border with mainland China can reopen, the city’s deputy leader has said after meeting Beijing officials. Chief Secretary John Lee Ka-chiu said on Monday that both sides were positive about the prospect of reviving cross-border travel during “constructive” talks in Shenzhen over the weekend. He identified three areas of improvement in Hong Kong’s anti-pandemic strategy to pave the way for further discussions, covering screening requirements for inbound travellers, the quarantine system and the city’s overall approach to risk. But Lee said the mainland officials had not set any preconditions for relaxing travel restrictions, which Hong Kong authorities have made a priority for boosting the economy. More than 20 representatives from the mainland and Hong Kong attended Sunday’s meeting, hosted by Huang Liuquan, a deputy director of the State Council’s Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office. “The mainland experts understand that Hong Kong has its own [anti-pandemic] measures, and they acknowledge that Hong Kong has yielded a certain result,” Lee told the press.Hopes in Hong Kong for border reopening, but ‘it’s unlikely before March’ “Our focus is to build a strong foundation to increase the mainland’s confidence in Hong Kong, and understand that Hong Kong will not bring extra health and safety risks to other places.”
    Lee did not directly answer questions on whether a date for a border reopening had been set, or if that could be achieved by the end of the year.
    “The process takes time, but I believe that the border could reopen in a gradual manner, as both sides demonstrated a positive attitude,” he said. “We will be proactive and push it forward as fast as we can.” He added local officials would submit a report on the meeting to Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor and strive to hold a second meeting with the mainland “as soon as possible”. Those in attendance included representatives from the central government’s liaison office in Hong Kong, and the Guangdong and Shenzhen administrations, as well as Secretary for Food and Health Professor Sophia Chan Siu-chee and Secretary for Innovation and Technology Alfred Sit Wing-hang. After the meeting, a source told the Post that “some things are missing” from the Hong Kong approach, adding that lessons would be learned from Macau’s experiences.
    Macau had over the past year largely brought the coronavirus under control, but recently recorded a spike in local cases, as have parts of the mainland.
    Hong Kong last confirmed a local Covid-19 case with an unknown source of infection on August 17, involving a 47-year-old airport worker. Health officials believe she probably contracted the virus at the transport hub rather than in the community. The city’s border controls are some of the world’s toughest, with inbound travellers required to quarantine for up to 21 days at designated hotels and undergo mandatory testing both during and after isolation.Hongkongers on the mainland and in Macau can return to the city without serving quarantine under the “Return2HK scheme” if they test negative for Covid-19. A “Come2HK scheme” allows non-Hong Kong residents in Guangdong province and Macau – including mainlanders and expatriates – to travel to the city without quarantining. But the arrangements are not reciprocal at this stage.Macau resumed quarantine-free travel with the neighbouring mainland city of Zhuhai in May last year, following the mutual recognition of a risk-based health code system that takes into account an individual’s condition, contact with Covid-19 patients and travel history.Carrie Lam lobbies Beijing for border reopening, seeks medical expert dialogueTravellers must also provide a negative coronavirus test taken no more than seven days before departure. Respiratory medicine expert Dr Leung Chi-chiu noted a recent uptick of imported infections in Hong Kong and urged the government to further tighten restrictions on travellers. He added a new strategy should be developed on eliminating cases within a month of an outbreak.“Hong Kong has no concrete plan on how to quickly cut off the spread of Covid-19 if there’s a community case. The strategy of simply tightening social-distancing measures and quarantining close contacts is outdated in the wake of more infectious variants,” he said.Leung acknowledged that locking down entire districts for mandatory testing would be difficult in Hong Kong but suggested ramping up regular screening instead – particularly for staff in high-risk places such as the airport and quarantine hotels – to two times per week.That should also apply to those who were fully vaccinated, to snuff out the contagion risks posed by asymptomatic carriers, he added.


  • Déclaration commune condamnant l’intimidation des organisations de la société civile de Hong Kong

    Les organisations soussignées, condamnent fermement l’intimidation croissante des organisations de la société civile de Hong Kong, par les autorités et les médias pro-gouvernementaux. Nous demandons instamment au gouvernement de la Région autonome de Hong Kong de cesser d’arrêter, de détenir et de poursuivre les militant.es des organisations qui exercent à juste titre leurs droits civiques et démocratiques. Nous demandons également aux médias pro-gouvernementaux de cesser de salir et d’accuser les organisations de la société civile de Hong Kong avec des articles sans fondements.


    #international #hongkong

  • Coronavirus Hong Kong: 800 quarantine rooms for domestic helpers gone within minutes of becoming available | South China Morning Post

    A Hong Kong quarantine facility offering 800 places for the swelling number of foreign domestic workers headed back to the city was fully booked within minutes of its online reservation system opening on Tuesday morning.Users were allowed to start waiting 45 minutes before the bookings opened for the spots dedicated to inbound workers – mainly arrivals from the Philippines and Indonesia – at the government’s Penny’s Bay quarantine facility.
    Separately, the city’s “Come2HK” scheme, a quarantine-free travel arrangement for non-Hong Kong residents arriving from Guangdong and Macau, is slated to start on Wednesday. The scheme’s designated online booking system, offering 2,000 slots a day, will open every Wednesday for the next 2½ weeks, with reservations offered on a first come, first served basis.Also from Wednesday, arrivals to the city holding Covid-19 vaccination records issued outside Hong Kong will be able to receive a QR code showing proof of inoculation for local use, such as when entering certain bars and restaurants. Inbound air travellers will be issued the QR code along with their compulsory quarantine order, with the arrangement set to be extended to land arrivals from September 28.New arrivals who are already in Hong Kong can apply for the codes online or at designated post offices. The QR codes, which allow users to present their vaccination record in an electronic format, can be stored on the government’s “Leave Home Safe” app.
    Under the revised rule, participants in groups of no more than four will no longer need to stay at least 1.5 metres apart, as long as all staff are vaccinated and everyone is masked. Trainers, however, will need to remain in a fixed location at least 1.5 metres from anyone else.The rush on the Penny’s Bay booking system, which was offering reservations beginning on September 20, began at 9am, with online queues forming even earlier. By 9.30am, a Post reporter was unable to access the system at all.“The centre only accepts bookings until October 19 and was fully booked within five minutes,” said Cheung Kit-man, chairman of Hong Kong Employment Agencies Association. He estimated that about 300 employers were unable to book a slot and would have to try again when more became available.
    For those unable to secure accommodation in the latest round, bookings will open on September 17 at 9am for reservations starting on October 20, according to a government update.
    “It’s first come, first served. The faster you move, the higher your chances of securing a room,” Chan said. “If you spent even just two minutes longer to double-check the passport details of the domestic helper, you would’ve been too late to book a slot.”The speed at which bookings filled up has frustrated some families in urgent need of help. A first-time mother, who gave her name as Mrs Li, was reduced to tears after failing to book a quarantine room on Tuesday.Li had hired a helper from the Philippines in January this year to care for her newborn son, but ran into delays with flight suspensions and vaccine documentation.The secondary school teacher said the system returned an error message after her application was submitted, compounding her frustration.“I was in tears when I realised the application couldn’t go through quickly enough,” she said, adding the stress of the whole process had worsened her postpartum depression.Li said neither she nor her husband could afford to take more time off work. She was willing to pay more for a helper, “but there are simply no more domestic helpers left in Hong Kong that I could find to hire”. Foreign domestic workers in Hong Kong are paid a minimum wage of HK$4,630 (US$595) per month.Secretary for Labour and Welfare Law Chi-kwong on Saturday said about 50 quarantine rooms at the facility would be released on a daily basis, estimating that all slots would be filled within 16 days.Even after a reservation has been successfully submitted online, the application does not necessarily guarantee the room, according to a notice on the system.
    The Labour Department must then process the applications to verify the travel documents and vaccination record of the helper.The entire process can take up to three to four days, with a phone call from the department to confirm the reservation. A 21-day quarantine stay at the government-run facility, including three meals per day, costs HK$10,080 (US$1,295).But as the facility does not have Wi-fi, helpers have been told to bring their own mobile phone and charger, along with a functioning SIM card, so they can communicate with health authorities.The government announced on Friday that the Lantau Island facility would begin operating as quarantine accommodation for fully vaccinated foreign domestic workers following complaints that the more expensive 409-room Silka Tsuen Wan hotel had been fully booked. Bookings at the Silka, which charges HK$800 per night, were all snapped up within 24 hours of its reservation system opening. Before Tuesday, it was the sole quarantine option for incoming workers after the government’s decision to begin recognising vaccination records from the Philippines and Indonesia.


  • Hong Kong : Lettre publique d’une dirigeante syndicaliste emprisonnée

    Lorie Lai, présidente du Syndicat général des orthophonistes de Hong Kong (General Union of Hong Kong Speech Therapists – GUHKST), a été arrêtée avec l’ensemble du Comité exécutif du syndicat par la Direction nationale des forces de police, pour la série de livres d’histoires pour enfants, prétendument séditieuse, éditée le 22 juillet par le syndicat.

    Elle et la vice-présidente ont été inculpées et placées en détention provisoire le jour suivant. Les autres membres du Comité exécutif ont également été inculpé.es et placé.es en détention provisoire le 30 août.

    En outre, les autorités ont notifié à la mi-août la révocation de l’enregistrement légal du GUHKST, en invoquant le motif de « l’utilisation du syndicat à des fins illégales ou incompatibles avec ses objectifs ou ses règles ».


    #international #hongkong

  • Coronavirus: nearly half of Hong Kong’s convention, events sector could close if travel rules not eased, survey finds | South China Morning Post

    Coronavirus: nearly half of Hong Kong’s convention, events sector could close if travel rules not eased, survey findsNearly half of Hong Kong’s exhibition and convention sector could face closure by the end of the year if authorities do not ease travel restrictions and roll out more subsidies, an industry survey has found.The Hong Kong Exhibition and Convention Industry Association, which released the report on Monday, urged the government to relax Covid-19 quarantine rules for eligible business travellers to attend events, conferences and conventions in the city.
    It warned that 45 per cent of event organisers, contractors, freight forwarders, travel agents, audiovisual equipment suppliers and design houses could fold within a year if current control measures remained and no financial aid was provided by the end of 2021.“The convention and exhibition industry, which contributed over HK$58 billion (US$7.5 billion) to Hong Kong’s economy in 2018, has been in deep water since February 2020 as no international event could be held in Hong Kong due to travel restrictions and preventive measures,” association chairman Stuart Bailey said.
    In its survey, conducted in August on 60 members, the association found event organisers and industry players were facing losses totalling HK$50 million this year.Despite keeping coronavirus cases at bay for months, health authorities have been adamant in maintaining a “zero-infection” policy in the hopes of reopening the border with mainland China.
    The city’s travel restrictions are among the strictest in the world, with arrivals from countries and regions deemed high risk facing 21 days of hotel quarantine.Last week, authorities announced Asia’s premier tech conference RISE would be held in Hong Kong for the next five years starting in March as an in-person event, promising 10,000 attendees. The conference was originally set to be held in Malaysia, but organiser Web Summit said that was no longer a feasible location because of logistical issues.However, Hong Kong’s government has not offered quarantine exemptions for the summit. According to the survey, all respondents said quarantine-free travel for overseas participants was important to their operations, with 75 per cent warning they would move international events elsewhere if Hong Kong insisted on its tough measures till the end of the year.Under the government’s Anti-epidemic Fund subsidy scheme, private organisers of events held at the Convention and Exhibition Centre in Wan Chai and the AsiaWorld-Expo in Chek Lap Kok near the airport are eligible for financial aid covering full venue rents until June 2022.However, organisers have had to postpone or cancel events, meaning they have been unable to benefit from the subsidies. The association said only 42 exhibitions had been awarded a total of HK$97.38 million as of June 30.
    The association called on the Commerce and Economic Development Bureau to provide more aid and prepare a road map for relaxing travel restrictions so the industry could plan ahead, warning the city could lose out to foreign competitors. In a reply to a Post inquiry, the bureau said it was aware of the survey and would continue to liaise closely with the sector to work on reinvigorating Hong Kong’s premier position as an international convention, exhibition and sourcing hub.


  • Coronavirus: Wednesday relaunch of quarantine-free ‘Return2HK’ scheme for Hongkongers, doors open to others from mainland 1 week later | South China Morning Post

    Coronavirus: Wednesday relaunch of quarantine-free ‘Return2HK’ scheme for Hongkongers, doors open to others from mainland 1 week later
    Return of programme for residents will see six medium or high-risk areas excluded, with ‘Come2HK’ scheme for non-residents on September 15
    Hong Kong residents will soon be able to cross the border from mainland China without quarantine under the relaunched ‘Return2HK’ scheme.
    Quarantine free travel from mainland China and Macau to Hong Kong will resume on Wednesday for city residents, Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor has revealed, with the programme set to expand to non-residents a week later.
    The “Return2HK” scheme – first launched in November for Guangdong province and Macau, then expanded to the rest of the mainland in April – exempts returning Hongkongers who have passed a Covid-19
    test at least 72 hours before arrival.But when the programme relaunches on Wednesday, six areas currently considered medium or high-risk for Covid-19 will be excluded. Further details about those areas are expected to be announced later today.The plan, which sets a daily quota of 5,000 residents, was suspended last month for Macau and mainland provinces other than neighbouring Guangdong in a bid to prevent a Covid-19 outbreak across the border from spreading into the city.The decision meant most returning residents needed to spend 14 days in isolation at home and submit to five rounds of testing. “Since last November when the Return2HK scheme was launched, more or less 200,000 residents have returned, but not a single case of infection was found. So we can proceed with this plan without worries,” Lam told reporters ahead of her weekly Executive Council meeting.Additionally, Lam announced that a separate scheme, dubbed “Come2HK”, would finally be launched on September 15, enabling non-residents – including mainlanders and expatriates living across the border – to come to the city without undergoing compulsory quarantine.The plan will initially be capped at 2,000 people per day.On Tuesday, Hong Kong confirmed six new imported Covid-19 cases from Britain, the Philippines, Tanzania and the United States. They all carried the L452R mutation, which has been linked to several coronavirus variants, including the Delta one.
    All but one had been fully vaccinated. The remaining person had received one dose of vaccine. There were fewer than five preliminary-positive infections reported.Lam said the last locally transmitted Covid-19 case was on August 17, which was 21 days ago, an important milestone because it reflected the virus’ incubation period.
    Tourism sector lawmaker Yiu Si-wing said the two schemes were a step in the right direction, but doubted it would boost cross-border traffic significantly.“It signals that mainland Chinese authorities are willing to test the waters and allow people to enter or return to Hong Kong,” Yiu said. “But there’s still a long way to go before they allow travel to return to normal levels.“Cross-border travel has been stalled for a long time, even though both Hong Kong and the mainland have had stable coronavirus conditions, so we can expect business travellers and those with family or health matters to return to the city first.”Yiu added that the long-awaited “Come2HK” scheme was like a “tester” to see if there was sufficient demand among travellers from the rest of the mainland to come to the city. “Both schemes are not reciprocal, Hong Kong residents would still have to quarantine if they cross over, indicating that mainland China is still not ready to fully reopen its borders yet,” he said.


  • EU removes six countries including US from Covid safe travel list | Coronavirus | The Guardian

    EU removes six countries including US from Covid safe travel list. Travellers from Israel, Kosovo, Lebanon, Montenegro, and North Macedonia also affected by move. The EU has removed six countries, including the US, from a Covid “white list” of places whose tourists should be permitted entry without restrictions such as mandatory quarantine.
    A majority of EU countries had reopened their borders to Americans in June, in the hope of salvaging the summer tourism season although most required a negative test ahead of travel. The move was not, however, reciprocated by the US.The EU’s white list necessitates having fewer than 75 new cases daily for every 100,000 people over the previous 14 days – a threshold that is not currently being met in the US. According to Johns Hopkins University, the US suffered the world’s highest number of infections over the past 28 days. Also removed from the EU’s safe list because of a rise in Covid infections are Israel, Kosovo, Lebanon, Montenegro, and the Republic of North Macedonia. The current white list now includes: Albania, Armenia, Australia, Azerbaijan, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brunei Darussalam, Canada, Japan, Jordan, New Zealand, Qatar, Republic of Moldova, Saudi Arabia, Serbia, Singapore, South Korea, Ukraine and China.
    The member states are also advised that travel restrictions should be gradually lifted for the special administrative regions of China Hong Kong and Macao. The guidance is non-binding and the recommendation is that the fully vaccinated should nevertheless be granted entry for non-essential travel.


  • Coronavirus: domestic helpers vaccinated in the Philippines ‘could be able to travel to Hong Kong as soon as August 30’ | South China Morning Post

    Coronavirus: domestic helpers vaccinated in the Philippines ‘could be able to travel to Hong Kong as soon as August 30’ Manila’s top diplomat in the city says ‘fruitful’ talks on recognising Philippine inoculation records are nearing completion. The arrangement is likely to involve the use of a special ‘yellow card’ issued by the Philippine government
    Domestic helpers vaccinated against the coronavirus in the Philippines could be able to fly to Hong Kong as soon as next week, as “fruitful” talks on recognising inoculation records from the country near completion, Manila’s top diplomat in the city has revealed. Philippine Consul General Raly Tejada told the Post on Sunday that his country would be ready to enable people vaccinated there to travel to Hong Kong from August 30, probably through the use of a special “yellow card” verifying their inoculation records. In a text message, Tejada said: “[An] agreement is very close on having the Yellow Card being issued by the Philippine Government’s Bureau of Quarantine as an acceptable document that would certify the holder’s Philippine Covid-19 vaccination record. We have been informed that August 30 is the target date.” The special card, according to a sample seen by the Post, would contain the traveller’s coronavirus vaccination record, along with their name, date of birth and identification document details. Tejada said the information could be verified through an embedded QR code printed on the card. Philippine labour secretary Silvestre Bello III also confirmed on Sunday that the Hong Kong government would allow Filipino workers with vaccination certificates issued by the Bureau of Quarantine to start work in Hong Kong.


  • Sous la pression du gouvernement et des médias d’État chinois, le plus grand syndicat enseignant de Hong Kong s’auto-dissous

    Le quotidien d’État chinois « Quotidien du peuple » et l’agence de presse officielle « Chine Nouvelle » (Xinhua) ont qualifié le syndicat enseignant HKPTU, fondé en 1973, de « tumeur toxique » devant être « éradiquée ».

    Le Hong Kong Professional Teachers’ Union (HKPTU) a annoncé son auto-dissolution le mardi 10.

    Avec plus de 95 000 membres, HKPTU était le plus grand syndicat enseignant de Hong Kong, représentant plus de 90% de la profession.


    #international #hongkong

  • HK border reopening hopes fade with new outbreaks - Asia Times

    HK border reopening hopes fade with new outbreaks
    Hong Kong is pushing to reopen its border with Macau and the mainland but new virus outbreaks could scupper the plans. Hong Kong’s retail and tourism sectors have become pessimistic about the resumption of quarantine-free travel across the territory’s borders with Macau and the mainland by October after new outbreaks were reported in the region.
    The Macau government said Tuesday it received notification from Zhuhai authorities that samples they collected from two Macau residents had tested positive. The couple’s son and daughter were then identified as infected.
    Macau’s health authorities said the four were infected with the more infectious Delta variant. They said it was likely that the daughter, who joined a dancing trip with 30 people to fly from Zhuhai to Xi’an in Shaanxi province between July 19 and 24, was the first infected person in the cluster. Her brother and parents later showed symptoms of the illness.
    It was said that the plane taken by the daughter on July 19 had arrived from Nanjing to Zhuhai earlier on the same day. Two passengers flying from Nanjing to Zhuhai on that plane previously tested positive.Due to the outbreaks, the Macau government declared a state of “immediate prevention” from 3:30pm on Tuesday and ordered Covid tests for the gaming city of 680,000 people. People must provide a negative Covid test result done within 12 hours if they want to leave the city. The latest outbreak also sparked panic buying in supermarkets as Macau has not seen a local case for more than 400 days.Macau Chief Executive Ho Iat-seng said it was not necessary to shut down casinos for the moment as it was likely that the infected daughter contracted the virus on the July 19 flight. Ho said the girl sat on the same seat where two patients from Nanjing had occupied.
    The Hong Kong government also announced that from August 4, anyone who had been in Macau over the past 14 days could not return to the city under the Return2hk scheme, which allows Hong Kong residents quarantine-free entry upon returning to the territory if they test negative for the virus.A 13-year-old Hong Kong girl and her family are being sent to a quarantine camp as she stayed in the same room with the Macau girl during the dancing trip last month.
    Separately, a 43-year-old construction worker, who lived in Sham Shui Po in Kowloon, tested positive preliminarily on Tuesday. However, his sample tested negative for the coronavirus on Wednesday but positive for the Covid-19 antibodies, showing that he might have recovered from a previous infection.Chuang Shuk-kwan, head of the Centre for Health Protection’s Communicable Disease Branch, said Wednesday the man was probably a “re-positive” case, but authorities had not been able to find out the exact time of his infection yet.“The man has been undergoing regular testing, his regular testing started from May – although he had one or two tests at the end of March – so one of the possibilities is that he had an infection quite early on, maybe before May or March,” Chuang said.If the man has been infected recently through an unknown source, his case would have broken a 56-day streak of zero new untraceable local infections in Hong Kong.
    Since the second quarter of last year, Macau and the mainland have adopted a “zero infections” strategy by implementing tough anti-epidemic measures. As the two places successfully controlled their epidemic situations, they have resumed quarantine-free travel since last September.
    Last year, the Hong Kong government tried to maintain local infections at low level and avoided launching severe measures such as citywide tests and large-scale lockdowns. However, such strategy failed to prevent the city from being hit by the fourth epidemic wave between last November and January this year.Since then, the government has locked down infected areas, tightened quarantine measures and banned flights coming from high-risk countries to stay in line with Beijing’s “zero infections” strategy.
    Yiu Si-wing, a lawmaker representing the tourism sector, said his sector had previously expected that Hong Kong could reopen its border with Macau and the mainland by October but such hope seemed to have vanished due to the recent outbreaks in the latter two places. Yiu said the previously scheduled travel bubble between Hong Kong and Singapore had burst twice and would probably be unable to resume in the coming few months.
    He said among the 1,600 travel agencies in Hong Kong, only 100 to 200 were organising “cruise-to-nowhere” trips while 400 were running local tours. He said a majority of travel agencies were having no income while some of them might go bankrupt if the border between Hong Kong and the mainland could not reopen this year.Yip Kin-ming, a member of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference and a director of the China Economic and Social Council, said the chance that the Hong Kong-mainland border could reopen in short term had become slim after the Delta variant was spread from Nanjing to a dozen of Chinese provinces in late July.
    However, Yip said the two places should continue to push forward the discussion about whether vaccinated people could be allowed to travel across the border with shorter quarantine periods. Health authorities in China on Wednesday reported 71 domestic cases, the highest since January. The country is fighting against the Delta variant by launching citywide tests and locking down millions.Infectious disease expert Leung Chi-chiu said it was right for Hong Kong to quickly remove Macau from the “Return2hk” scheme, so that from now on people who return from Macau would need to undergo home quarantine. Leung said if the situation became worse, returnees from Macau should be quarantined in hotels instead.
    “The Macau case does illustrate the fragility of a bubble with the mainland,” Benjamin Cowling, an epidemiologist from the University of Hong Kong, told RTHK. “I know that’s what we are going for. If we can maintain zero Covid for a period of time, if we can get the vaccine coverage up to a higher level, then we have the opportunity to establish a bubble with the mainland with free travel in both directions.” On Tuesday, the Hong Kong government launched several new measures to help boost the city’s vaccination rate. It said Hong Kong would have 70% of its population vaccinated with their first dose by the end of September.


  • Coronavirus: 3 new imported cases in Hong Kong, including 2 people fully vaccinated against Covid-19 | South China Morning Post

    Coronavirus: 3 new imported cases in Hong Kong, including 2 people fully vaccinated against Covid-19. The three infections involved a 53-year-old man arriving from Namibia, a 42-year-old woman from Cyprus and a 37-year-old man from Ghana.All were found to have the L452R mutation, which is linked to the more infectious Delta variant.
    The man from Namibia had received two shots of the BioNTech vaccine
    , and the woman had also been vaccinated with two doses of the Russian-made Sputnik V jab. Both received their second shots in April, making them fully vaccinated.The city’s total number of confirmed infections stood at 11,955, with 212 related deaths. On Tuesday, the Centre for Health Protection revealed that an airport porter, whose infection was confirmed on Sunday, was linked to four earlier imported cases from Russia. Health authorities suspected the man, who had spent several hours inside a cargo plane one of the four cases worked on, was infected by an undiagnosed cabin crew member.