A University of Hong Kong epidemiologist says remaining Covid-19 travel restrictions are having a negligible impact on the pandemic situation in the city and that there would be little risk in dropping them.
New arrivals in Hong Kong still have to undertake multiple tests and submit to having their movements restricted for three days.
However, HKU’s Professor Benjamin Cowling says these measures would only be useful if Hong Kong were trying to stay at zero infections, as is the case in Macau and the mainland. Speaking on an RTHK programme, he also questioned whether Hong Kong’s mask mandate needed to remain in place.
“We understand the long-term plan is to return to normal, but what’s not clear is how long that process is going to take,” he said. “Other parts of the world are completely back to normal, but Hong Kong still has a lot of restrictions.”
He added: “Travel measures are critical for countries trying to stay at zero like Macau and mainland China. In Hong Kong, we have 5,000 cases a day, and new variants are already here. Travel measures are not critical; they just cause enormous cost and disruption. There wouldn’t be a huge risk to dropping on-arrival testing or post-arrival testing, and no risk to dropping other travel-related measures.”
Professor Cowling also questioned the government’s focus on children as a priority group for vaccinations. “The highest risk of severe Covid occurs in older adults,” he said. “The severity of Covid in children is really low, so I don’t understand why children and the elderly are conflated in discussions.
"There’s a lot of pressure on parents to get kids vaccinated. I’m OK with children getting vaccinated but I don’t understand the need to push it so strongly.”