Hong Kong narrows down list of those exempted from Covid-19 quarantine

Hong Kong has so far recorded over 12,300 Covid-19 cases with 213 deaths, among the lowest in the world. PHOTO: AFP

HONG KONG - The city's government has taken more steps to tighten loopholes in quarantine rules, announcing on Monday (Nov 1) that exemptions would be narrowed down to only those in emergency or essential services from Nov 12.

The city's No. 2 official John Lee said those exempted included cross-boundary truck drivers and coach drivers, airline cabin crew, shipping crew of cargo vessels and government officials carrying out their duties.

But others, including diplomats and consular staff who used to be able to self-monitor at home, would now have to serve mandatory quarantine. Only consuls-general or those at equivalent or higher levels would continue to be exempted.

"We have retained the classes of people who are closely connected to the daily necessities and the natural running of society and also to ensure that governmental operation can proceed as it should, so as to ensure overall effective governance," said Mr Lee, who is the Chief Secretary for Administration.

He pointed to two previous confirmed cases as the reason for removing most diplomats from the exemption list.

"We actually had two cases in which the consular staff or their family members were infected, and because the possibility of the Delta virus being so unpredictable and spreading the disease even stronger, we have to do what is necessary to ensure that this risk is reduced," said Mr Lee.

Earlier, the Hong Kong government decreed that from Monday, anyone wanting to enter government buildings or premises such as libraries, swimming pools and wet markets must use the LeaveHomeSafe app for contact tracing purposes.

The police said five people, including two immigration officers and a staff member at the Audit Commission, were arrested on Monday morning for allegedly using a fake app to enter the Immigration Tower in Wan Chai.

Under the new rule, children, the elderly and disabled as well as users of public toilets were exempted from using the app.

The decision to tighten rules in the battle against Covid-19 comes as the city struggles to reach an agreement with the mainland on reopening borders.

Pressure has also been mounting on the government to reopen to other international cities and to ease tough border controls, but Chief Executive Carrie Lam has maintained that the priority was still reopening to China.

Last week, she said there were proposals for Hong Kong to align its anti-Covid-19 measures more closely with that of the mainland.

On Monday, Hong Kong added one imported case, bringing the total tally in the territory so far to over 12,300 with 213 deaths, among the lowest in the world.

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