HK making progress on border reopening criteria

An advisor to the government on the pandemic, David Hui, said on Saturday that Hong Kong was making progress meeting mainland requirements for the border to reopen.

The SAR government has recently changed a number of infection-control measures, like scrapping most quarantine exemptions and quarantining recovered patients for an extra two weeks.

Speaking after a radio programme, Professor Hui from the Chinese University said there was a chance the border could open as early as February.

“After the meeting held in Shenzhen on September 26, there are a number of items that the Hong Kong government has already improved… So I think we are actually getting there, and hopefully there may be a second face-to-face meeting,” he said.

“But I think it will take about four to five months, as suggested by the mainland official at the meeting in September. Using the Macau example, it will take four to five months for the border to be reopened.”

Professor Hui had been speaking to the media after bookings opened on Friday for priority groups to get their third Covid vaccine shot as a booster.

Over 20,000 people made reservations on the first day, a number Hui said was “not low”.

But the government expert said people who opt to use Sinovac as a booster may need another dose sooner than if they opt for BioNtech.

“Based on the current data, after receiving two doses of inactivated vaccine – whether this is Sinopharm or Sinovac – after six to eight months, most recipients will have very low antibody levels,” Hui said.

“But in contrast, if we look at the Israel data, after receiving two doses of BioNtech, after about six months, only 16 percent of recipients will have very low antibody levels. So the antibodies tend to be more long-lasting, perhaps they can last for six to 12 months.”

Responding to remarks by Chief Executive Carrie Lam that a higher antibody level doesn’t mean it’s better, Hui said it was just her personal view, noting that high levels of antibodies could reduce the risk of symptomatic infections.

Meanwhile, government vaccine advisor Wallace Lau said real-life data from Chile had shown that the protection offered was similar, regardless of whether the third dose was a Sinovac or BioNtech jab.