Shorter quarantine set for fully jabbed

Top News | Jane Cheung and Wallis Wang 7 May 2021

Fully vaccinated citizens are set to have their mandatory stays at quarantine camps shortened by seven days.

Government adviser David Hui Shu-cheong said people who have had both required shots of a vaccine will be cheered by an announcement expected today that their camp terms will be cut to 14 days from 21 followed by seven days of home quarantine if their buildings have reported cases of the more infectious Covid-19 variants.

For inoculated close contacts of patients with non-mutated Covid infections Hui suggested shortening their quarantine to seven from 14 days, though authorities could also consider allowing them to isolate themselves at home.

The easing will follow The Standard reporting on Monday that fully vaccinated residents of evacuated buildings complained about having to spend 21 days in camps - the same treatment for people without vaccinations - and criticized the arrangement as discouraging people from getting the shots.

Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor said the next day she had ordered an evaluation of the quarantine rules.

Authorities are said to have finished studying possible adjustments.

Hui, a respiratory expert at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, said the Covid variants are more contagious and vaccines provide much less protection against them.

A small number of cases overseas involved people being infected, especially with mutant variants, even after getting two shots of vaccine, he said.

"As a prudent measure they should still be sent to quarantine centers for 14 days."

Still, more people quarantined at Penny's Bay complained about arrangements there.

A resident named Du from Beauty Mansion in Tsim Sha Tsui told The Standard she was evacuated for a 21-day quarantine on Tuesday after a mutant strain was detected there.

She suffered a foot injury in the camp the following day but waited two hours for an ambulance while a three-centimeter-long cut kept bleeding.

After she was treated at North Lantau Hospital she had to stay outdoors for 11 hours before a coach took her back to the quarantine center around 3am on May 6.

But when she finally arrived back at the quarantine camp staff said they forgot to bring medication prescribed for her and asked her to go to the hospital again. Du said she was too tired and gave up on the medication to return to her room.

The Centre for Health Protection yesterday reported two new Covid-19 cases from the Philippines and Indonesia, taking the SAR's tally to 11,799 including 210 deaths.

It also reported a preliminarily positive case related to an Indian man who was Hong Kong's first case of the highly infectious South African Covid-19 variant introduced to the community. The case involved the 67-year-old mother of a female friend of the Indian. She lives at Fung Hing House in Hing Wah (II) Estate, Chai Wan.

At 9pm yesterday, authorities cordoned off Fung Hing House to test all residents. They were expected to be evacuated to quarantine centers for 21 days after that.

Citizens who had been to Deep Water Bay beach on the two public holidays on April 25 and Labour Day are also required to undergo mandatory tests by tomorrow after the center found the female friend's brother had held two parties with around 10 people at the beach on those days.

The brother was believed to have subsequently passed the infection to three Filipino helpers at an April 18 party at his home on 37 Fuk Wing Street, Sham Shui Po.

Infectious disease expert Ho Pak-leung from the University of Hong Kong said preliminary evidence pointed to the Indian man and his female nurse friend were not forthcoming on their whereabouts as the Wan Chai gathering was just several days before they tested positive.

"Authorities should take this very seriously and refer it to the police for follow-up action," he said. "If they gather sufficient evidence there should be prosecutions."

And mandatory tests have been ordered for all 370,000 foreign domestic helpers in the SAR by Sunday. As of Tuesday over 201,000 helpers had been sampled.

Also yesterday, the Department of Health announced the latest post-inoculation death in a 46-year-old man, who received his second BioNTech jab on April 27.

On Tuesday the man, who smoked and suffered from hypertension, suffered chest pains but had not sought medical attention. The next day he collapsed at home and was declared dead after being sent to a public clinic in Mui Wo.

So far, 29 vaccine recipients have died, including 22 who had Sinovac jabs and seven who had BioNTech.

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