Quarantine lengthened for 16 countries, including US

Quarantine requirements for 16 overseas places will be tightened starting Friday midnight, including the United States and Australia, the government announced.

Fifteen overseas countries will be upgraded from the medium-risk group to high risk. They include Bangladesh, Cambodia, France, Greece, Iran, Malaysia, the Netherlands, Spain, Sri Lanka, Switzerland, Tanzania, Thailand, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates and US.

After the change, only fully vaccinated residents can return from those countries to Hong Kong. They have to undergo 21-day quarantine.

Australia will be upgraded from low-risk group to medium risk. That means vaccinated individuals have to quarantine for 14 days instead of 7 days. Those who are not vaccinated will have to quarantine for 21 days.

Details on the relevant arrangements and the corresponding boarding and compulsory quarantine requirements for respective specified places can be found at http://www.coronavirus.gov.hk/eng/inbound-travel.html

The change came after a vaccinated domestic worker returning from the US was tested positive of Covid-19 after finishing quarantine.

She was confirmed of Covid-19 on the 12th day, after finishing her 7-day quarantine.

Ho Pak-leung, director of the Centre for Infection of the University of Hong Kong, said it is a wrong decision to allow vaccinated people to shorten quarantine to seven days.

In a radio program, he said that as many as 30 percent of patients show symptoms only in the second week after infection, therefore all arrivals should be quarantined in hotels for 21 days.

“A study on the Delta variant of the virus in foreign countries showed that the viral load of infected people is still quite high even after vaccination. The domestic helper roaming the community during the contagious period may lead to a super outbreak,” he said.

Leung also believed that listing the US as a medium-risk place was a big mistake, as well as the main cause of the local confirmed case this time.

In light of the rampant Delta variant virus, he said that the initial concept of achieving herd immunity when 70 to 80 percent of the population is vaccinated must be redefined.

“Herd immunity may never happen, so vaccination should be re-positioned as protection for individuals, instead of for achieving herd immunity,” Leung said.

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