Transcript of remarks by the Chief Executive at Anti-epidemic Command and Coordination Group press conference (with photo/videos)

     The Chief Executive, Mr John Lee, held a press conference of the Anti-epidemic Command and Coordination Group this morning (August 8). Also joining were the Secretary for Health, Professor Lo Chung-mau; the Secretary for Innovation, Technology and Industry, Professor Sun Dong; the Deputy Secretary for Health (Special Duties), Mr Vincent Fung; and the Deputy Government Chief Information Officer, Mr Tony Wong. Following is the transcript of remarks by Mr Lee at the press conference:
Reporter: Hi Mr Lee, a few questions. As the days of hotel quarantine have been reduced, what are the risks of having an upsurge of cases? And how would the Government deal with the upsurge in additional pressure on the healthcare system? Will it contradict the Government's goal of "dynamic zero"? And if the infected cases are under control, is there any room to further shorten the quarantine period later this year? And what is the internal assessment of, if BA.5 really dominates in a few weeks' time? And as those people who receive the red and yellow code are allowed to go to work or school, will young students who are unvaccinated be exposed to higher infection risks? And how will the authorities contain the potential outbreaks at workplaces and schools? Thank you.
Chief Executive: In our consideration of how long the duration of hotel quarantine should be, I have explained in detail the five considerations in the whole Government's anti-epidemic measures, that is, we will control the best we can, using different measures, the number of infected cases so as to reduce the burden on our hospital services. We'll be using scientific evidence and analysis of data so as to differentiate people into different risk groups and accordingly, based on the risks, we design the measures of control, so those who are infected will have to remain at the isolation location and those who are not infected will be given a yellow code so as to allow them to have some social activities provided that they do not take part in mask-off activities and the other conditions which I have mentioned.
     The main purpose is while we can control the threat to public health, we want also to ensure that society can have the maximum degree of economic and social activities so that the society can go about as normal as possible, and the competitiveness of Hong Kong can be maintained. It is a balance of factors. We have also a strong emphasis of protecting the high-risk groups of the elderly and the very young, and to reduce serious cases and to reduce death cases.
     It is a composite of factors that we take into consideration in designing what we consider to be the best measure for the overall interests of Hong Kong. Of course, we'll be monitoring the situation regularly, so as to examine if there are any things that we need to do. But one direction which is clear is we will be making good use of PCR (Polymerase Chain Reaction) tests which is reliable and also gives us confidence to identify risk groups depending on the developments of the epidemic situation.
     The one message I want to tell is that I try my best not to roll back measures. That is why in considering what measures that the Government will take, I will be discussing with respective Bureaux heads to ensure that we have taken all the considerations regarding threats, regarding risk groups, regarding implications to society as a whole, before we roll out the measures.
     And your question about students having a yellow code going into school, I must emphasise once again, this red and yellow code, particularly yellow code, only applies to people coming from overseas and from Taiwan through Hong Kong airport after they have done the three days of hotel quarantine and provided that they are not PCR positive, and they are given a yellow code. So this is the key consideration when we assign the red and yellow code.
Reporter: Hello, a few questions. Are you worried about a surge in cases after the shortening of hotel quarantine period, and can you explain why three days of hotel quarantine are required but not two or one? And will this new arrangement affect chances of Hong Kong resuming quarantine-free travel with the Mainland? Thank you.
Chief Executive: I have explained that there are five considerations in the Government's anti-epidemic measures. We will do our best to control the number of cases of infection. We will use scientific evidence and good analysis of data to differentiate people into different risk groups so that we can accordingly use appropriate measures to control them. And we also have to balance the risks against the economic activities and the social lives of Hong Kong. We will do our best to reduce serious cases and death cases. And we will place strong emphasis to protect people who are at high risk, particularly the elderly and the very young, because the vaccination rates of them are still far from what we want.
     There will certainly be ups and downs in the number of infected cases. We will be monitoring that closely. But what is important is, while we will do our best to control the number of infected cases, we have to also look at the risk factors. What we have recommended now – the three days of quarantine in designated hotels – is after examining the scientific evidence and the data, which gives us the indication that the risk factor of people having finished three days' quarantine in designated hotel, their risk level is actually no more than the risk level of transmission in society, in districts. Based on this analysis, we consider that the risk is under control and balanced against the need for other activities to take place. This new measure of "3+4" will be in the best interests of Hong Kong.
     I must emphasise that during the four days of medical surveillance, there are also limitations on their activities. There are also PCR checks to ensure that we know whether there is any change of risk factors. They are restricted in their activities in those four days, and those restrictions have given us the confidence that the risk factor is equally controlled well so that the new measures will not add risk to the  society as a whole in our control of the epidemic.
     Trying to connect with the world, and making our travel with the Mainland as convenient as possible are not contradictions. We have to work towards both measures, in other words, to make travel in and out of Hong Kong through airport as easy as possible, and at the same time to make travel in and out of the Mainland as easy as possible. We know that the Mainland has their standard of "7+3", in other words, seven days in designated hotels and three days for surveillance, we will respect that. In the discussion with our counterparts in the Mainland, we have to ensure that they feel confident that any measures that we take will not create extra risk to their public health. Based on this mutual understanding, we want to find out methods, so that we can reduce the degree of inconvenience in our travelling in and out of the Mainland. We are in close discussion with our counterparts, and we hope that we can reach some agreed measures so that we can announce. But I must emphasise that connecting with the Mainland and connecting with the international world do not have any contradictions, and I am working on both sides so as to reduce the degree of inconvenience as much as possible.

(Please also refer to the Chinese portion of the transcript.)

Ends/Monday, August 8, 2022
Issued at HKT 17:29