‘Unvaccinated may face entry bans during fifth wave’

Authorities on Monday made a fresh push to boost the city’s lowly vaccination rate, and warned that people who are not inoculated may be barred from restaurants, schools and entertainment venues should a fifth wave of Covid-19 sweep Hong Kong.

Chief Executive Carrie Lam said people who are “medically unfit” to have a vaccination will be exempted, dismissing concerns that such a measure would be unfair.

“You need not be worried that it will be applied to the extent that people who are not medically fit will still be required to take the jabs in order to use something which is essential to their daily living for example going to school,” Lam said.

“I hope people who have yet to take the jab will also realise that we need them to participate in order to be fair to all those who have taken a jab hitherto, so that all of us together could reach a higher level of vaccination rate that would keep the city safe.”

Health Secretary Sophia Chan had said the possible restriction could apply to restaurants, schools, student hostels, constructions sites, libraries, museums, cinemas, and performance and sports venues.

Chan also said those who haven’t been vaccinated may not benefit from other concessions, such as shorter quarantine periods if they’re found to be a close contact of a Covid-19 patient.

Around 2.3 million of coronavirus vaccines have been administered in Hong Kong so far, with about one-fifth of the population having received at least the first dose of the vaccine.

In launching the new “Early Vaccination for All” campaign, officials also announced a series of incentives to encourage people to get inoculated before September – a “critical period” in preparation ahead of the next school year.

Government employees will be given a paid day off after each jab, and those who have already be given the vaccines will also be eligible to a holiday.

Social distancing restrictions will be relaxed for fully vaccinated diners, for example, up to 12 of them can be seated at a table and they can eat out until later in the evening.

The chief executive said she has written to more than 100 property developers, shopping malls, retailers and chambers of commerce to join hands and offer incentives in a bid to encourage people to get vaccinated.

“It’s more than a jab in a very ordinary sense that apart from receiving the dose, you will have a chance of getting something back, whether it is extra holiday provided by the employer, whether it is a lucky draw with certain goodies or discount coupons in shopping malls or free tickets to the theme park and so on,” she said.

“This is a very tangible way in order to overcome what we call the vaccine hesitancy.”

She said she hoped the city can reach a “comfortable level of vaccination”, but did not spell out a clear target.