HK to roll out 'vaccine pass' in hope of boosting vaccination rate

Officials of the Food and Health Bureau of Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAT) introduces the implementation details for "vaccine pass" on a press briefing on February 21, 2021. /CFP

Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) will fully implement a "vaccine pass" starting Thursday as a requirement for people to enter public venues to boost the vaccination rate.

Under the 'vaccine pass' plan, residents above 12 years or above should have taken at least one dose of a vaccine to obtain the record that's available on the 'LeaveHomeSafe' mobile app and physical copies form to enter specified premises, except for those with medical exemptions, according to the HKSAR's Food and Health Bureau.

Venue operators are required to scan a customer's vaccine pass in the form of a QR code, and a paper vaccination record also contains a QR code for restaurants to scan.

The plan will be an effective way of tracking the real name of visitors and thus helping the health department curb the virus transmission in the community as quickly and precisely as possible, the government said.

The recent outbreak in the city has overwhelmed its healthcare facilities with a new daily high of 7,533 infections and 13 deaths, most of which had not been vaccinated, building pressure on the SAR government to urge more people to get inoculated.

As of February 19, nearly 90 percent of the newly increased 42 deaths from COVID-19 since December 31 last year had not been vaccinated before, according to Chuang Shuk-kwan, head of the Communicable Disease Branch of SAR's Center for Health Department.

For combating the growing threat from Omicron, the city has been adding facilities and urging people to get vaccinated. The government wants children and senior people to get vaccinated on a priority basis as they are more vulnerable to the COVID-19 infection.

Hong Kong has lowered the age limit to three years old for taking the COVID-19 vaccine from China's Sinovac on February 15, and those aged 5-11 are eligible to get vaccines from Pfizer-BioNTech.

In the newly increased community vaccination sites at Hong Kong University and Tsuen Wan Sports Centre, more walk-in quotas are available for people aged 60 and above.
"We urge all citizens who are eligible, especially the elderly, to act as soon as possible. If there are elderly people at home who have not been vaccinated, please arrange them for vaccination immediately," Patrick Nip, Secretary of the Civil Service, said.

The city's vaccination rate for the eligible population with at least one dose reached over 85 percent, growing closer to its target of 90 percent.