HONG KONG - Hong Kong's leader on Tuesday (Aug 10) stressed that the community "must make good use of this window period" when the pandemic situation has been stable, to get vaccinated before a fifth Covid-19 wave hits.
Given the more infectious Delta variant, it is "all the more important to build the anti-epidemic barrier in Hong Kong now", said Chief Executive Carrie Lam ahead of an Executive Council meeting.
"In the event of a major outbreak, we'll be resorting to universal testing again, as you've seen recently in Macau, and resources will be deployed in such a way that extensive vaccination will not be possible," she added.
If another wave of the pandemic arrives, "there is no way we can allow vaccination for all", Mrs Lam said.
As at Monday, 3.5 million of the 7 million eligible residents have received the first vaccine dose, accounting for half of the population.
The take-up rate needs improvement, Mrs Lam noted, adding that it is why the government has extended the arrangement requiring certain groups of people to pay for their own tests.
The "get vaccinated or pay for your own tests" scheme that began on Aug 2 will be ramped up.
From Sept 1, unvaccinated civil servants will have to take the Covid-19 tests at their own expense, and those who refuse to get the jabs or be tested will face disciplinary actions.
Staff of the Hospital Authority, care homes and public schools are included in the scheme.
Last week, officials also announced more relaxed quarantine rules for vaccinated people entering the city from medium-risk areas such as Singapore, Japan, and South Korea.
The rules, which kicked in on Monday, mean that only Hong Kong residents and vaccinated non-residents can enter from medium-risk areas.
Vaccinated individuals in this category can also undergo a shorter mandatory quarantine while non-vaccinated people will have to do seven more days.
Local media reported that quarantine hotels are now fully booked until the end of the month as Hong Kongers in high-risk areas such as the United Kingdom, India, Indonesia and the Philippines can now return to the city.
Residents from high-risk countries can return if they are fully vaccinated but they will have to go through a 21-day hotel quarantine.
From Wednesday, seniors aged 60 and above will be able to walk into a vaccination centre without having to make a booking first.
The programme, which currently allows only those aged 70 and above to do so, was expanded as the authorities are trying to get the elderly, who are more prone to Covid-19 complications, to go for the jabs.