Transcript of remarks by CE at media session before ExCo (with video)
Reporter: Good morning Mr Lee. So, what is your evaluation to the first day of the "0+3" arrangement, and is the Government going to relax the local social distancing measures, including removing the restrictions on restaurants' capacity, suspending overnight lockdowns of buildings, compulsory screening of residents and sewage testing, as experts suggested? And second, the Shenzhen authorities stepped up their border control after Hong Kong moved to the "0+3" model on Sunday. So will this affect Hong Kong's negotiation on border reopening with them? And what's the progress on "reverse quarantine"? Will there be a third meeting with the authorities? Thank you.
Chief Executive: The first day of implementation of our "0+3" measures went on quite smoothly yesterday, including the running of the airport and also traffic arrangement. I am very happy to see there were many happy faces, a lot of hugging and greeting which really impressed my heart sentimentally. After all, some arriving passengers actually indicated that they have not seen their family members for a long time, and they were very emotional. So I also felt emotional when I saw these scenes. I'm happy that people are, in general, very supportive of the "0+3" policy.
What is important for us is to, while looking at it positively, also look at it carefully. Because from the days when we required everybody to be quarantined at designated hotels to yesterday, it actually means that there was no need for quarantine at the hotels. It's a big change. In that big change, inevitably there will be a lot of uncertainties. Some of these uncertainties are foreseeable which have been taken into my calculation when I decided to roll out the "0+3" plan. But there may be uncertainties which are not foreseeable. So we have to be careful to monitor the situation to ensure that things progress as we plan smoothly and in a manageable and orderly way. So it is important for us to bear in mind why we have to retain the measures, because we still have around 4 000 cases every day, so it is still a high number, and 20 per cent of our hospital service is still taken away because of COVID. And we also have to protect the high-risk groups including the elderly and the very young.
One other important element that I hope people will pay attention to is the non-compliance by the people involved. First of all, we have already had over 40 people who broke the Red Code (rule) when they should stay at the isolation locations but they left. In our compulsory testing notice (operations), we have found that each month there was a rough average of about 8 per cent non-compliance. This affects the effectiveness of our "0+3" plan, because in the "0+3" plan we are requiring people to do tests on Day 2, Day 4 and Day 6 and also to do RAT (rapid antigen tests) continuously for seven days. If they don't do this, the success of the "0+3" plan will not be as effective because there may be a rebound of cases simply because people are not complying with what they're required to do. We have to condemn this non-compliance because it affects every one of us. It affects my plan of looking at possible new areas where we can allow more free activities, and also we have other non-compliances such as there have been at least 25 000 false medical certificates confirming people are not appropriate to receive the inoculation. And we have to be assured that people comply with the things we do so that we will be controlling the spread of the disease as we plan. So it is important that we also advocate for people to go for inoculation, particularly the elderly and the young because the rate is very low. In conclusion, we have to monitor the situation, be pragmatic, be careful, so that there will not be a rebound of cases which will destroy the pathway to maximising activities in society. But we will, when the possibility is there, consider what other things that we can roll out.
In regard to the measures that have been announced by the Shenzhen authorities, we of course appreciate that thecontrol of COVID-19 is a serious matter in Shenzhen and we have a duty to co-operate in the overall control of the epidemic within our country. We will work hand in hand with the Shenzhen authorities to ensure that the overall effort in fighting the epidemic will be effective. The discussion to make the idea of "reverse quarantine" to be implemented in Hong Kong has been progressing. There have been meetings between the high-level officials of the two places. The discussion is still going on. But of course, the possibility of reaching agreement depends on whether we can reach the standard of requirement of quarantine as laid down by the Shenzhen authorities, which is a set of rules that applies to the whole country. We are working hard on that, and of course we will spare no efforts in trying to make it possible.
What is important is, the idea of "reverse quarantine", or pre-quarantine, is to allow people from Hong Kong to get into the Mainland while conforming to the "7+3" rule, which is implemented in the Mainland. The only question is whether we do it in Hong Kong or in Shenzhen. So the quarantine requirement remains the same provided that the standard (adopted in Hong Kong) is the standard that is acceptable by Shenzhen. Then, the risk of such a person who has gone through this process of quarantine will satisfy the requirement in the same way as he has done his "7+3" quarantine in Shenzhen. The concept is simple and is to conform to a standard which will not increase the risks to the Shenzhen authorities. On that basis, I think that we should give positive hope to the whole plan, we will continue to work hard on that. But whatever we do in Hong Kong, a person who goes through the process will be independent of the number of cases that we have in Hong Kong. The aim (of Hong Kong) is to reduce the number of cases in Hong Kong, so that the risks of the epidemic can be reduced.
(Please also refer to the Chinese portion of the transcript.)
Ends/Tuesday, September 27, 2022
Issued at HKT 13:29
Issued at HKT 13:29
Audio / Video
CE meets the media