Hong Kong, Feb 22 (efe-epa).- Hong Kong chief executive Carrie Lam and her ministers became the first people in the city to receive the coronavirus vaccine Monday afternoon.
Describing the vaccination as “a ray of light” shone on the fight against the Covid-19 pandemic, the top leader said she was “extremely pleased” to be getting her first jab, which was CoronaVac, a vaccine developed by Chinese bio-pharmaceutical firm Sinovac.
The press was invited to cover the process, which took place in a room at the city’s Central Library. Other top officials receiving their vaccines Monday were Justice Secretary Teresa Cheng and Security Secretary John Lee.
Last Friday, the first one million Sinovac doses arrived in Hong Kong, a week before a citywide vaccination programme kicks off on 26 February. The Fosun/BioNTech vaccine, co-developed by China’s Fosun Pharma and Germany’s BioNTech, will come before the end of February.
Online booking for the vaccine will start Tuesday, with five groups of people having the priority to get the jabs first. They include essential frontline workers, older people, and residents and staff of care homes. The city of 7.5 million people has recorded some 10,800 Covid-19 cases and a death toll of 197 since last January.
The Sinovac vaccine has a reported efficacy rate of 62.3% and has not been approved by the World Health Organization.
Meeting the press after receiving her jab, Lam said CoronaVac has been recommended by a panel of experts who have studied the vaccine carefully. She reassured “every Hong Kong citizen that the government is very serious about the safety, efficacy and quality of vaccines”.
At the press briefing, Lam was repeatedly asked by journalists for her response to Beijing’s plan to change Hong Kong’s electoral system.
On Monday morning, Xia Baolong, head of Beijing’s Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office, said at a conference held in Beijing that there is “an urgent need” to “optimize” Hong Kong’s electoral system and that people holding important official positions must be “staunch patriots.” Those advocating Hong Kong independence and calling for foreign countries to sanction the city are not patriots, said Xia, an ally of Chinese President Xi Jinping.
Since Hong Kong’s Legislative Council (LegCo) election was postponed by a year last July on grounds of Covid-19 pandemic concerns, speculations have been rife on Beijing introducing new measures to minimise the presence of pro-democracy figures at the city’s mini-parliament. EFE