Hong Kong Introduces New Measures to Curb COVID-19 and Boost Vaccination

People queuing at an interim community testing center for COVID-19 in Hong Kong, China, January 9, 2022. REUTERS / Tyrone Siu

HONG KONG, Jan 11 (Reuters) – Hong Kong will close kindergartens and primary schools and begin offering COVID-19 vaccines to children aged five and older, the city official said on Tuesday, as the Financial center is facing a surge in coronavirus infections.

Meanwhile, certain passengers will be banned from transit through Hong Kong for a month, Bloomberg News reported, citing unidentified sources familiar with the matter.

This comes when the city, governed by China, has had some local transmissions of the omicron variant of the coronavirus, after three months without local cases of coronavirus at the end of last year.

CEO Carrie Lam told reporters in a weekly media briefing that kindergartens and elementary schools should suspend face-to-face classes from Friday until after the Lunar New Year in early February to avoid the transmission of the omicron variant, which spreads rapidly.

Schools had mostly resumed face-to-face classes at the end of last year, after months of teaching online.

Children over the age of five will be able to receive the Chinese-made Sinovac vaccine, Lam said. The authorities have authorized the other vaccine available in Hong Kong, made by Germany’s BioNTech, for children 12 years and older.

“I am optimistic and I am confident that we can overcome the situation,” Lam said.

Separately, Bloomberg News said that Hong Kong International Airport was going to ban the transit of passengers from 150 designated high-risk locations between January 15 and February 14, citing unidentified sources.

The ban will not apply to diplomats, government representatives, athletes and personnel participating in the Winter Olympics, which open on February 4 in Beijing, according to the agency article.

The city’s Transportation and Housing Office did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Lam did not mention the new air traffic regulations during his press conference.

Hong Kong lags far behind other developed cities in its vaccination campaign. Fewer than 75% of eligible people have been vaccinated for the first time, while just under 70% have been vaccinated a second time. About 8% have received a third.

($ 1 = HK $ 7.7966)

(Reporting by Jessie Pang and Marius Zaharia; writing by Farah Master; editing by Muralikumar Anantharaman, Robert Birsel and Ana Nicolaci da Costa, translated by José Muñoz in the writing of Gdańsk)


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