The region that could ban unvaccinated people from public places

·4-min read
Food and Environmental Hygiene Department officers and police leave after inspecting the license of a restaurant and bar after it reopened, in Lan Kwai Fong, a popular drinking area in Hong Kong on April 29, 2021, as Covid-19 coronavirus social-distancing restrictions on restaurants and bars were eased under new vaccine bubble rules. (Photo by ANTHONY WALLACE / AFP) (Photo by ANTHONY WALLACE/AFP via Getty Images)
Hong Kong could ban unvaccinated people from public places. (Getty)

Hong Kong has warned it could ban unvaccinated people from restaurants, schools and entertainment venues.

The nation’s leader Carrie Lam has said those who have not been inoculated against COVID-19 may be prevented from entering public places if another wave hits.

The Chinese special administrative region started its COVID-19 vaccination programme in February but only around 14% of people have been fully vaccinated.

On Monday, Lam denied the potential bans were punishment for people who chose not to get the jab and said she hoped they would not have to be implemented, The Standard Hong Kong reported.

Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam Speaks during a press conference on Covid-19 Social Distancing Restrictions , in Hong Kong, Monday, April 12, 2021. Hong Kong Government Said that it intends to form vaccination bubbles, allowing people who have received the vaccine to enjoy relaxed Covid-19 social distancing measures (Photo by Vernon Yuen/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
Hong Kong chief executive Carrie Lam (Getty)

Lam, who did not give a timetable for implementation of the proposals, said: “If Hong Kong’s vaccination rate for the next three months is high enough, I am confident that such measures will never be implemented while battling the possible fifth COVID wave.”

Watch: Will the full easing of restrictions in England go ahead on June 21?

She added: "I have noticed that some newspaper headlines said the government is punishing members of the public, but don't be mistaken, it's a public-health practice to adjust epidemic-control measures based on vaccine take-ups.”

Lam said those who could not have a vaccine due to being “medically unfit” would not be banned from public places.

An 84-year old resident receives his second Pfizer-Biontech dose of vaccine at the Hiu Kwong vaccination center  in Hong Kong, China, on 7 Apr 2021. Originally scheduled for April 1st, his shot was rebooked to April 7th, after Hong Kong said they found packaging issues with the batches used for the first shot. After a suspension due to concerns around the packaging of batches of Pfizer-Biontech vaccines, Hong Kong resumed its vaccination program for this jab. The bookings for first and second dose far outpaced the Chinese Coronavac vaccine, beset by concerns over its safety after several deaths with cardiovascular issues happened in patients days or weeks after the jabs. The authorities have said the deaths were not linked to the Chinese vaccines. Uptake for the Pfizer-Biontech vaccine has been higher at about 15,000 bookings per day.  (Photo by Marc Fernandes/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
An 84-year old resident receives his second BioNtech dose in Hong Kong. (Getty)

How Hong Kong has dealt with the pandemic

Hong Kong has largely controlled the virus, with around 11,800 infections and 210 deaths. 

Against this backdrop, the majority of residents have opted to delay vaccinations.

Life has essentially returned to normal since the outbreak of COVID-19, with schools reopened, most workers back in offices and restaurants and shopping malls full.

The government has kept outdoor gatherings restricted to no more than four people, a move critics say aims to prevent any repeat of the 2019 protests.

Hong Kong has also relaxed some coronavirus rules, such as shortened quarantine time for vaccinated residents, as worries over adverse reactions and a lack of confidence in the Chinese-made Sinovac vaccine has hit vaccine demand.

Residents are allowed to choose whether to take Sinovac or Germany's BioNTech vaccine but there remains a surplus of unused vaccines for both, and the BioNTech doses will start to expire from August, the government said.

Approximately 2.3 million COVID vaccines have been used, with one-fifth of Hong Kong’s population currently inoculated with at least one dose, rthk.hk reported.

To avoid wastage, Hong Kong may donate vaccines or cancel future batches, which could hinder future orders, authorities said.

Meanwhile, police cited coronavirus restrictions to ban, for a second year running, an annual vigil to commemorate the Chinese Communist government's bloody crackdown on student-led pro-democracy protests in Beijing's Tiananmen Square in 1989.

Despite the ban, organisers expect many people to mark the 4 June anniversary, though in small rather than big groups. 

HONG KONG, CHINA - 2021/05/01: A health worker wearing a face shield trying to guide the COVID-19 -test queue outside the community testing centre in Yau Ma Tei.
After two helpers were confirmed to have a more infectious Covid-19 strain, the government ordered the foreign domestic helpers to take a test by May 9 along with attempt to make vaccination a requirement for visa renewals. Huge crowds were seen queuing outside community testing centre in Yau Ma Tei, as many used their Labour Day holiday to take the mandatory test. (Photo by Dominic Chiu/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)
A health worker guides people to a COVID testing centre. (Getty)

Further details of plan to ban unvaccinated people from public places

Health secretary Sophia Chan confirmed that possible venues that could ban unvaccinated citizens include restaurants, schools, cinemas and sports venues.

Hong Kong Football Club has already instructed all staff to get vaccinated by the end of June or be denied future bonuses, promotions and pay rises.

The request, an example of the rising pressure on residents in the Asian financial hub to get jabbed, comes days after the city's government launched a broad “Early Vaccination for All” campaign to incentivise its 7.5 million population to get vaccinated.

In an internal memo sent by Hong Kong FC, general manager Mark Pawley said staff who take the vaccine by the end of June will receive HK$2,000 (£181) and days off in lieu for each jab they take. 

Those who do not will be denied future pay rises and bonuses.

Lam added: “I hope people who have yet to take the jab will also realise that we need them to participate in order to be fair to all those who have taken a jab hitherto, so that all of us together could reach a higher level of vaccination rate that would keep the city safe.”

Watch: What UK government COVID-19 support is available?

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