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HONG KONG (Reuters) - Unvaccinated Hong Kong government employees, as well as education and health workers will soon have to pay for regular COVID-19 tests, city leader Carrie Lam said on Monday, announcing measures to persuade more people to get vaccinated.
Hong Kong has registered 56 days without any local coronavirus cases and life has largely returned to normal in the global financial hub, except heavy travel restrictions remain in place, with hotel quarantine required for all arrivals.
Authorities were unsatisfied with a slow initial take-up of vaccines, although the numbers have improved in recent months after various businesses announced a range of perks for those who take vaccines, including a lottery prize of an apartment worth about $1 million.
"If it's purely a personal option not to get vaccinated and help society achieve herd immunity, that's not something a responsible government should allow or tolerate," Lam told reporters.
Lam also said that vaccinated people arriving in Hong Kong from countries deemed as medium-risk who present a negative COVID-19 test and positive antibody test could spend 7 days instead of 14 days in mandatory hotel quarantine. They would have to "self-monitor" in the second week.
Those who are not vaccinated, however, have to spend an extra seven days in the hotel, Lam said.
The government is also mulling extending the availability of free vaccination centres by one month until the end of October, she said.
About a third of the population has received the recommended two doses and less than half have had at least one dose.
By comparison, rival finance hub Singapore is looking to allow quarantine-free travel from September, when 80% of its population is expected to be inoculated.
(Reporting by Clare Jim and Sara Cheng; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore)