Hong Kong implements vaccination pass to access public places

Hong Kong, Feb 24 (EFE).- Hong Kong government implemented Thursday a “vaccination pass” as part of its latest measures to encourage more residents to get immunized as the city battles its fifth infection wave, which has driven isolation centers and hospital capacity to the limit.

The LeaveHomeSafe app, used for contact tracing and required to enter restaurants and public places, has begun “flagging” users who haven’t uploaded their vaccination records, something some residents had so far resisted over privacy concerns.

Everyone over 12 must have been vaccinated at least once against Covid-19 to enter different businesses such as restaurants, supermarkets, shopping centers and entertainment venues, in which the authorities will carry out random checks to verify people’s immunization .

The requirements of this permit also extend to other spaces such as schools, universities, government offices, public hospitals or residences for the elderly. Failure to comply with the regulations constitutes a crime and anyone who enters or remains in any premises without having been vaccinated can be fined up to HKD 10,000 ($ 1,280.)

Violators will receive a penalty notice and if they pay the HKD 5,000 fine within 21 days, will not be prosecuted or sentenced for the crime.

Individuals ineligible for vaccination for health reasons, holders of a specific medical exemption certificate and those who enter the indicated premises solely for the purpose of ordering food or drink to go, delivering or picking up an item, among others, are exempt.

The fifth wave caused by the omicron variant, the worst in the entire pandemic, has collapsed the territory’s health system, which in the last two days has reported more infections than in the previous two years.

Mainland China has come to the aid of the region by sending personnel and supplies, while the country’s President Xi Jinping has ordered the Hong Kong Executive to control the situation.

During the last month, the accumulated cases in Hong Kong, of 7.5 million inhabitants, have skyrocketed from 13,000 to 70,000. This is unprecedented in the former British colony, which managed for months to keep daily infections below 100 and now exceeds 6,000 in some days – 8,674 on Wednesday and is expected to be about 10,000 in coming days.

Until this outbreak, Hong Kong had managed to keep the pandemic under control, albeit at a high price: with some of the strictest travel restrictions in the world, the isolation of the business hub has caused the exodus of numerous foreign companies, putting in risk its status as an international financial center.

The local government announced this week more measures that include the advancement of summer vacations in schools to March and April and the mandatory closure of certain public places such as gyms, entertainment venues and bars. This has been extended until Apr. 20, as has the continuation of the ban on eating in restaurants after 6:00 p.m.

Since the beginning of the pandemic and according to Hong Kong authorities, the territory has registered 72,785 Covid-19 positives and 372 deaths from the disease. EFE


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