‘Return2HK requirements should be further tightened’

University of Hong Kong microbiologist Ho Pak-leung has joined calls for health authorities to further tighten entry and quarantine requirements for residents returning from the mainland, in light of a worsening Covid-19 situation across the border.

In an adjustment to its Return2HK scheme on Wednesday evening, the government suspended quarantine exemptions for residents returning from anywhere on the mainland bar Guangdong.

The move also follows the decision to include Macau on Hong Kong’s list of “at risk” places and remove it from the scheme.

Speaking on an RTHK radio programme, Ho called the decision appropriate, but said officials can do more by asking people to observe their 14-day quarantine in hotels instead of at home.

“We often saw that some people under home quarantine wouldn’t follow the government’s requirements and would head out for meals and shopping… I think the returnees should observe quarantine at hotels instead of at home, and I believe the number of people involved shouldn’t be too much,” he said.

The leading microbiologist also said returnees should be required to show a negative test result from the past 24 or 48 hours, instead of 72 hours as required now.

“Under the threat of the Delta variant, the requirement of 72 hours is outdated… Macau and Zhuhai have tightened the requirement to 12 hours, and most mainland provinces now require a test result within the past 24 hours, with some asking for results from the past 48 hours,” Ho said.

“I think we should tighten our requirements too: 24 hours is the best, but if we can’t achieve that, we should set the requirement at 48 hours,” he said.

The expert also said the SAR government should enhance communication with mainland authorities and keep up with updated requirements.
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