The government says it will shorten mandatory quarantine and isolation periods for Covid patients and their close contacts from Friday.
Speaking at a government Covid press conference on Thursday, Undersecretary for Health Libby Lee said infected people can have their isolation period cut from seven to five days, if their rapid tests come back negative for two consecutive days.
The same arrangement will also apply to close contacts of Covid patients, meaning that if they are able to provide consecutive negative rapid test results, they can end their mandatory quarantine on the fifth day.
New arrivals from Taiwan and abroad, meanwhile, will only be required to conduct daily rapid tests for five days instead of the current seven.
However, Lee said other social distancing measures and the face mask mandate will remain, as the local epidemic situation remains serious.
The latest adjustment of anti-virus rules here came one day after the loosening of Covid measures on the mainland, but Lee said it's not advisable to compare Hong Kong's measures with other places.
"Different places have their own conditions... and also their vaccination coverage rates are different. So if we just simply look at the pandemic measures and compare places and places, it's not comprehensive and it's not an objective tool," the health undersecretary said.
"So what we should do basically is to just look at the local situation, to judge if the Covid pandemic is under control or not under control."
The daily Covid caseload in Hong Kong has reached its highest since March. The number of infections hit 14,373 for the day, among them nearly 800 imported cases.
There were 27 additional Covid-related deaths.
The Centre for Health Protection’s Dr Albert Au said at the press conference there has been a significant increase in infections in the SAR, with an average of over 10,000 new cases recorded each day over the past week.
That’s 26 percent up from the previous week.
He added that the city has also seen a jump in the number of Covid-related deaths.
A chief manager with the Hospital Authority, Larry Lee, said public hospitals are facing an increasing workload, with over 400 Covid patients being admitted daily in recent days.
Lee said the Hospital Authority will monitor the situation closely and consider re-deploying resources to tackle an increase in the number of patients.
University of Hong Kong microbiologist Siddharth Sridhar welcomed the latest easing of Covid rules but said the authorities could have done so earlier.
"It's a small move towards making life a little bit easier for people who are infected or close contacts. I don't think that's going to have a negative effect on the Covid epidemic locally."
The expert also said the use of LeaveHomeSafe could be relaxed as soon as possible.
"Have there been outbreaks of Covid in settings where LeaveHomeSafe is required and has been investigated using LeaveHomeSafe data? These are valid questions, I think, that need to be addressed to justify LeaveHomeSafe being continued because it's not without cost maintaining an app like that."
Last updated: 2022-12-08 HKT 18:07