Govt studying shorter quarantine proposal: advisers

Government pandemic advisers say officials are studying whether the quarantine period for close contacts of Covid-19 patients should be shortened from 21 days to 14.

Quarantine facilities have been filling up recently, as authorities send hundreds of people into quarantine over emerging Omicron infections.

Speaking on morning radio shows, the experts said given the Omicron variant’s shorter incubation period, infections can already be detected within 14 days.

University of Hong Kong microbiologist Yuen Kwok-yung said after 14 days in quarantine, people could be asked to isolate at home for another week.

“We set the 21-day rule a year ago, but we now think it’s not necessary. We now suggest the government quarantine people at Penny’s Bay for 14 days and test them during that period. After 14 days, we will allow them to return home – but they will still have to be tested, wear a wristband and mask, and only go out to buy food,” he said.

“I have proposed this to officials but they still have to tackle logistics and management issues,” Yuen added.

The top microbiologist said the change might apply to other groups that have to undergo quarantine, but he didn’t specify who he had in mind.

The experts also expressed concern about transmission chains in the community.

Chinese University professor David Hui said apart from untraceable infections, he is also worried about the situation concerning a party held for a National People’s Congress deputy last week.

Another suspected infection has emerged among people who attended the banquet, this time involving a woman who wasn’t invited but went to the party with a guest.

Hui said authorities might lag behind in contact tracing due to the inaccurate guest list.

He said the authorities must further tighten social distancing measures, such as suspending classes and resuming work-from-home arrangements for civil servants, if more unlinked infections emerge.