Premature for HK to launch travel bubbles: Cowling

Epidemiologist Benjamin Cowling said on Tuesday that the situation in Hong Kong is still too unstable to open up travel bubbles, and emphasised that the SAR needs to do more on the vaccination front.

He was speaking one day after the Chief Executive, Carrie Lam, said she was awaiting word from Beijing about resuming cross-border, quarantine-free travel, and stressed that fighting the pandemic hinged on lifting vaccination levels.

“That’s going to be a little bit unstable, because we can have periods of time where we can freely travel to and from the mainland and then periods of time where maybe we can’t – and of course the bubble may also burst from the other direction,” said Cowling, from the University of Hong Kong’s School of Public Health.

“We’re aware of outbreaks of Covid in Guangzhou recently and in other cities in China as well, So in my opinion a more sustainable strategy would be to get our vaccine coverage up to a high level and then we can reopen to the entire world,” he said.

He said a more sustainable strategy would be to lift the vaccination rate.

He warned that the delta coronavirus variant posed a threat to Hong Kong – and the public would only be safe when vaccine coverage reached a high enough level.

The latest government figures show around 24 percent of the population has been vaccinated.

Cowling also said he was worried by the reports that some people who had been fully vaccinated with Sinovac shots had died from Covid-19 or had fallen severely ill from coronavirus.

He said medical experts had believed that the vaccine was fully effective in protecting people from getting serious cases of Covid-19.

Thailand says that instead of two Sinovac shots, people will now receive the AstraZeneca vaccine for their second jab.

If implemented, it will be the first mixing of a Chinese vaccine and a Western-developed dose.

Cowling said he saw potential in mixing vaccines, but cautioned that more research was needed.
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Last updated: 2021-07-13 HKT 09:30