The government has announced that patients who have recovered from Covid-19 and are ready to be discharged from hospital will need to spend an additional two weeks in quarantine.
It said the requirement, which will take effect from Wednesday, can help to minimise the risk of these patients spreading the coronavirus in the community.
“As patients who have recovered from infection recently may still carry the virus, the latest arrangement would further reduce the risk of such patients bringing the virus into the community to a minimum.
“It would also lower the risk of virus spreading in the community due to possible re-positive situation,” the government said.
The government said, for the time being, those who meet the discharge criteria will be immediately sent to the North Lantau Hospital for isolation.
The conditions for discharge from hospital are also being tightened.
Symptomatic patients will need to have been afebrile for at least three days, and shown significant improvements in respiratory symptoms and lung x-rays. Ten days will need to have passed since the onset of the illness.
Symptomatic and asymptomatic patients will also need to test negative twice for Covid-19 in two tests taken at least 24 hours apart.
Ten days will need to have passed since an asymptomatic patient’s first positive Covid test.
The government said the Department of Health will issue quarantine orders to patients in accordance with its powers under the Prevention and Control of Disease Ordinance.
Respiratory medicine expert Leung Chi-chiu said he agrees with the government's tighter rules, describing them as proportionate given the relatively small number of confirmed cases in Hong Kong.
"Especially for those who become re-positive [cases] soon after discharge, there's no absolute guarantee there may not have been a false negative test upon discharge," he told RTHK.
The doctor added that the new rules should help in the discussions between the authorities in Beijing and Hong Kong to lift border travel restrictions.
Meanwhile, the authorities also said Hong Kong residents aged 12 to 17 who have received only one dose of the BioNTech vaccine overseas can board a flight and return to the SAR.
The same will apply to all Hong Kong residents currently in high risk countries who have medical certificates proving that it is not suitable for them to get a second jab because of health reasons.
The new travel arrangements will be effective from Friday.
Last updated: 2021-10-26 HKT 20:47