Govt unlikely to go for zero-quarantine measure in the near future as COVID-19 pandemic is not over

Professor Lo Chung-mau

13th August 2022 – (Hong Kong) The Secretary for Health, Professor Lo Chung-mau, responded at a media session after attending a radio programme today. A reporter asked Professor Lo, “For inbound residents whose homes are spacious enough to quarantine at home for the first three days, why do they have to spend extra to quarantine in a hotel when the government already allows infected residents to isolate at home?” The reporter also asked if the government will implement “zero-quarantine” measure for overseas arrivals by the end of this year.

In response, Professor Lo said that there is a difference between local residents who tested positive and those who came from abroad. The fact is that local residents are already in the community and are already living in their home environment. In the case for those inbound passengers, they have not yet got into the community, so the government has the responsibility to stop them going into the community. For local residents, when they tested positive, they are already at home, and that is the difference. The government has to stop the viruses in particular variants, coming from abroad.

He added that the government would consider every option and it has to realise that the control of COVID-19 is very important for the health and life of all citizens.

The government should not just look at economic activities. Its first priority is to protect the health and life of all citizens. The government would consider every option if it is safe, but the government has to have enough data to support whatever policy it will do, hence it implemented the “3+4” (model). He emphasised that it is not a relaxation of the government’s anti-epidemic strategy.

The government still holds the opinion that it has to reduce infection, reduce serious disease and reduce death during the COVID-19 pandemic. The government is merely changing from a seven-day hotel quarantine into a “3+4” strategy which is also seven days.

By changing the formula, the government has not reduced the length, but it has changed the four additional days of hotel quarantine into four days of medical surveillance, including the Amber Code which restricts their high-risk activities, and also requires more PCR testing (polymerase chain reaction-based nucleic acid testing), so that the government can identify them and prevent the virus from getting into the local community.

On the proposal of “zero-quarantine” measure, Professor Lo replied that he cannot promise. It depends on the COVID-19 situation. Everyone hopes to have more resumption of travel and economic activities, but the government has to look at the COVID-19 situation, development of new variants and other factors. He emphasised that even WHO (World Health Organisation) and many experts have warned that the pandemic is not over yet. To say hastily that the government will relax everything and go for a zero-quarantine measure will not be practical.