Beijing ready to provide vaccines

Top News | Jane Cheung 26 Nov 2020

Beijing will supply Hong Kong with vaccines that are developed or produced in the mainland when necessary.

Hong Kong has taken a "two-pronged strategy" in procuring vaccines, sources said, and it includes joining the international alliance Covax to cover at least 20 percent of the population and through advance purchase agreements with pharmaceutical firms.

Officials have put aside HK$8.4 billion for procurement and administration of vaccines, with a target of two jabs per person. The preliminary plan is to procure two types of vaccines.

The final decision on suppliers will be made according to effectiveness and logistics because some candidate vaccines have to be stored between minus-20 and minus-70 degrees Celsius.

Hong Kong experts will evaluate the supply when vaccines are on the private market. If they are needed, vaccines will be supplied by Beijing.

Carrie Lam noted that a fourth wave of outbreaks is under way. To break transmission chains, she said, authorities have mandated that high-risk groups undergo tests, and voluntary tests on a wider scale will be provided for asymptomatic people.

Lam may even implement large-scale community testing similar to September's scheme that tested 1.7 million residents. On a call for a mandatory territory-wide test, Lam said that would require a lockdown - banning people from stepping out of their homes and closing borders.

"Even if we boost the efficiency at laboratories it would take at least four weeks to test everyone," she added. "Can Hong Kong citizens and businesses bear a complete lockdown for four weeks?"

She said a new legal framework on mandatory testing would be invoked upon the emergence of clusters.

"If [container] terminals are hit by the virus again we will send sampling teams to the sites," she said. "Police will seal the areas, and people could only leave after testing negative."

The same approach would be adopted if, say, an 8,000-resident estate saw an outbreak.

Lam said authorities will also roll out more relief measures worth HK$600 million for the 260,000-strong tourism industry.

All 1,700 local travel agencies will receive cash subsidies averaging HK$10,000 for each employee, and 19,000 tour guides will each get a HK$15,000 one-off subsidy and 3,400 coach drivers HK$6,700.

"Once the epidemic has eased, we will tap into more local cultural and green tourism resources to revive our tourism industry," Lam added.

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