Implementation of ‘Health Code’ system between Hong Kong and Mainland in limbo due to COVID-19 third wave, sources

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16th September 2020 – (Hong Kong) The third wave of the epidemic in Hong Kong has eased in Hong Kong. Chief Executive Carrie Lam said at a press conference that there is no timetable for the implementation of the health code system. She also pointed out that the key to the introduction of the health code system lies in whether other countries have confidence in Hong Kong.

It is reported that whether the health code system can be successfully introduced again depends on the mainland government. According to people familiar with the matter, the mainland government has indicated that Hong Kong must achieve 21 consecutive days of zero diagnoses before such system can be implemented but the Hong Kong government thinks it is difficult to do so. Both sides have negotiated and Hong Kong government has hoped to relax the threshold to single-digit confirmed cases per day but the Chinese government refused.

The Hong Kong epidemic was brought under control in mid-June and there have been zero confirmed cases for several consecutive days. According to sources, the HKSAR government has decided to announce the launch of the “Health Code” system on 10th July with Shenzhen as a pilot scheme. Hong Kong and Shenzhen each agreed to 10,000 visitors per day, and they were limited to specific groups such as business travellers, cross-border International students and cross-border families, excluding tourists. Depending on the development of the epidemic after the launch, it would gradually be extended to other Greater Bay Area cities, including Macau.

Unexpectedly, a few days before the announcement on 10th July, the epidemic suddenly recurred, and the number of daily confirmed cases surged from sporadic cases to double digits, showing signs of a third wave of outbreak. As a result, the authorities decided to halt the launch on 8th July. It was not until recently that the epidemic eased sharply.

Applicants for the “Health Code” system will be exempted from the 14-day quarantine upon entry and exit after undergoing a virus test. Sources predict that when the government re-introduces the health code system in the future, there may be some fine-tuning, but the big framework will still be based on the July “original plan”, that is, in the initial stage, only people who need to travel to and from Shenzhen for work, school, and family.

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