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Expert: 'prudent' to test travellers for antibodies

2021-05-08 HKT 10:52
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  • Expert: 'prudent' to test travellers for antibodies
A government adviser on the pandemic said on Saturday that officials should introduce antibody tests as an additional check for inbound travellers who've been vaccinated against Covid-19.

Professor David Hui of the Chinese University said an expert panel advising the government coronavirus strategy recommended introducing antibody checks, but he thinks officials decided against it because they don't want to keep passengers waiting at the airport.

The administration announced on Friday a reduction in the quarantine period for fully vaccinated travellers from countries considered low and medium risk. Arrivals from Singapore, Australia and New Zealand will spend only seven days in a hotel instead of the current 21. For medium-risk countries, the quarantine period is 14 days.

Travellers will still have to take a Covid test on arrival, as well as during and after quarantine.

"It would be more prudent if you include the antibody testing as part of the package," Hui said.

"Anyway, they have to prove that they have received the vaccine and they would be tested on the PCR on arrival and also subsequently during the quarantine. So I think at least we have two other measures to make sure they don't carry the virus," he said.

On the emergence of a number of Covid cases involving mutant strains in the community, he said social distancing measures and the vigilance of citizens have prevented the virus from spreading widely.

Meanwhile, Professor Hui says he expects the World Health Organisation to grant emergency use approval for the vaccine from mainland firm SinoVac as soon as next week. The jab is one of two being used in Hong Kong, and 800,000 doses have been administered here so far.

"From what we have seen from the data, it certainly fulfills the WHO requirement reducing the symptomatic transmission risks by at least 50 per cent and the safety profile is also very good. So I think it will pass the WHO assessment probably next week," he said.

The WHO announced on Friday that it had granted emergency use authorisation to vaccines from China's Sinopharm.