Coronavirus News Asia

HK to launch health code system for travelers

The Hong Kong government will soon launch a health code system that will allow people to travel between Hong Kong, Macau and Guangdong province in China without being quarantined for 14-days, according to local media.

The government will first assign eight hospitals and labs to handle coronavirus tests for those who want to travel to Macau and Guangdong, Hong Kong media reported on Thursday, citing unnamed sources.

Each test will cost about HK$1,500 (US$194). Anyone who tests negative will be given a health QR code, which will be valid for seven days. 

It is expected that major users of this health code system will be business travelers, who can afford to pay for the test. 

On Thursday, Hong Kong’s Health Department gave briefings to eight hospitals and labs about how to upload a person’s coronavirus test result to a centralized health code system, RTHK reported. It will announce the details of this system soon.

Such a health code system is suitable for relatively low-risk areas, such as Hong Kong, Macau and Guangdong province, said Leung Chi-chiu, who chairs the Hong Kong Medical Association’s advisory committee on communicable diseases.

However, Leung said a health code cannot prevent people with the coronavirus from crossing the borders due to the extra-long incubation period of the disease.

“The infection risk is especially high in the first seven days,” Leung said. “The screening announced using nucleic acid may not be able to pick up the infection and it cannot exclude transmission risk rising after the test, and it can only be used for allowing quarantine free travel between no-risk areas, but not from epidemic zones.”

On June 2, the Hong Kong government extended social distancing rules by two weeks until June 18. It also extended the 14-day home quarantine requirements for people arriving from the mainland, Macau and Taiwan by one month to July 7, according to the Compulsory Quarantine of Certain Persons Arriving at Hong Kong Regulation.

Chief Executive Carrie Lam said at that time that those who travel between China’s Guangdong province and Hong Kong would be exempted from the requirements after a mutually-recognized health code system was launched.

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