John Lee Ka-chiu, chief executive of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, briefs the media at the Government Headquarters at Tamar on Tuesday. (CALVIN NG / CHINA DAILY)
The “0+3” quarantine-free policy for people returning to or travelers arriving in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region has seen positive results since its implementation, Chief Executive John Lee Ka-chiu said on Tuesday.
However, any decision to further relax the entry rule to “0+0” will still have to depend on new COVID-19 infection figures, he said.
Speaking ahead of the weekly Executive Council meeting, Lee said that since the “0+3” arrangement came into force about two weeks ago, the average daily number of people arriving in and departing from the special administrative region so far this month has gone up by 25 to 30 percent, compared with September.
The total number of arrivals has risen by about 30 percent, while the number of nonlocal arrivals has climbed by 80 percent.
He said many large-scale events can now be held in Hong Kong. He cited the just-concluded 2022 Hong Kong Masters — an invitational professional snooker tournament — while the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra concert will be held in October, and this year’s global financial leaders’ investment summit will take place in the SAR next month.
John Lee Ka-chiu added there are signs that the daily number of confirmed cases could go up to 5,000, while the number of imported cases daily had increased from the over 100 cases before the “0+3” policy was enacted, to more than 300 recently
The SAR government has also relaxed its social distancing measures, which has led to a recovery in the local catering business to a certain extent, and the local economy has become more active, said Lee.
He noted that although many people have called for the “0+0” policy to be implemented as soon as possible, medical experts still need time to see whether the “0+3” arrangement would have adverse results. The government will monitor the situation closely before deciding on the next step.
He added there are signs that the daily number of confirmed cases could go up to 5,000, while the number of imported cases daily had increased from the over 100 cases before the “0+3” policy was enacted, to more than 300 recently. The new mutant strain of the COVID-19 virus has also emerged in Hong Kong. The government will keep a tight watch on the latest developments.
On Tuesday, the city recorded 4,656 new COVID-19 cases, including 373 imported ones.
He noted recent violations of the anti-pandemic rules have also been alarming. One infected person left his residence without permission recently, and in the past two weeks, about 150 people have failed to receive scheduled mandatory tests.
Lee said that unless an unexpected situation arises — such as a resurgence of virus variants that are extremely dangerous — the city’s anti-pandemic direction remains clear, allowing the community maximum freedom to earn a living and conduct economic activities.
He also stressed that Hong Kong’s reopening its borders to overseas countries does not contradict the normalization of travel between the SAR and the Chinese mainland.
Bringing the pandemic under control will help the city link up with the mainland and overseas as well. If Hong Kong can better control the pandemic, it will have a more-solid basis for negotiating resuming normal travel with the mainland, he said.
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