HONG KONG - Non-Hong Kong residents with recent travel history in eight African countries will be barred from entering Hong Kong in view of the latest COVID-19 situation, the special administrative region's government announced late Friday.
In a release, a spokesperson for the HKSAR government said anyone who had stayed in Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia and Zimbabwe within 21 days will not be allowed to enter Hong Kong with effect from 00:00 am on Nov 27.
Although scientists are not fully certain of its potential effects on the epidemic situation or whether the relevant mutations would affect the efficacies of vaccines, we have to stay vigilant.
Spokesperson, HKSAR government
Non-local residents are already barred from entering the financial hub if they have a recent travel history in South Africa, which is already a specified high-risk place.
The announcement came after the city detected two cases of the new COVID-19 strain B.1.1.529 in travelers in compulsory quarantine.
The mutant variant B.1.1.529 has also been detected in South Africa and Botswana.
"Although scientists are not fully certain of its potential effects on the epidemic situation or whether the relevant mutations would affect the efficacies of vaccines, we have to stay vigilant," the spokesperson explained.
"Therefore, along with South Africa which is currently a Group A specified (high-risk) place, the government will also specify Botswana, as well as the adjacent Eswatini, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia and Zimbabwe as Group A specified places."
Hong Kong residents with a recent travel history to the eight places can only board a flight for Hong Kong if they have been fully vaccinated and hold a recognized vaccination record, the spokesperson said. "They have to undergo compulsory quarantine in a designated quarantine hotel for 21 days upon arrival at Hong Kong."
The control and prevention measures applicable to these places under the prevailing mechanism are more stringent than the measures recently announced by the United Kingdom, Singapore, and Israel, etc, added the spokesperson.
The sequence of the B.1.1.529 variant, which has a spike protein that is dramatically different to the one in the original coronavirus that vaccines are based on, was first uploaded by Hong Kong, according to British health minister Sajid Javid.
The first two cases detected in the city involved a traveler from South Africa and a man from Canada, who was being quarantined in the hotel room opposite his, the Hong Kong government said Thursday. The man from Canada may have been infected as air flowed between the rooms, according to the government.
In Geneva, the WHO said it would take weeks to determine how effective vaccines were against the variant.
With inputs from Agencies
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