People wearing face masks in Taipei. Taiwan is battling an upsurge in cases. Photo: Walid Berrazeg/Anadolu Agency/AFP

Hong Kong tightened its quarantine requirements for travelers from Taiwan from Monday after hundreds of Covid-19 cases were identified in the island’s northern cities.

Hong Kong said in early May that vaccinated people coming from the mainland, Macau and Taiwan would be isolated for seven days, instead of 14, from May 12. These travelers would self monitor their health for seven more days and undergo tests.

However, as Taiwan reported 206 local cases on Sunday and 333 on Monday, the Hong Kong government said it would require all inbound travelers who had stayed in Taiwan over the past two weeks to be isolated in designated hotels for 14 days and self-monitor for seven more days if they were fully vaccinated.

It said non-vaccinated travelers from the island will be quarantined for 21 days. Non-Hong Kong residents would be denied entry.

People line up outside Harbour City Shopping Mall in Hong Kong for a Covid-19 test on April 19. Photo: Vernon Yuen/NurPhoto/AFP

The Hong Kong government announced on Monday that travelers from Argentina, Italy, Japan, Kenya, Malaysia, the Netherlands and Singapore would have to be quarantined for 21 days from Friday.

A government spokesman said Hong Kong would adjust the boarding and compulsory quarantine requirements for people arriving in the city from relevant places if necessary.

Infectious diseases expert Leung Chi-chiu said all Hong Kong residents returning from Taiwan should be quarantined for 21 days, even those who are fully vaccinated.

There should be no differential treatment between vaccinated and non-vaccinated people as vaccines could not provide full protection against Covid variants or shorten the incubation period, Leung said.

He added that Hong Kong was not much better than Taiwan in terms of herd immunity, so any imported case could lead to a large-scale outbreak.

Meanwhile, Taiwan also announced on Monday that non-local residents would be denied entry from Wednesday until June 18. Travelers will not be allowed to transit through Taiwan.

The National Immigration Agency of Taiwan’s Ministry of the Interior said in March that 10,813 people from Hong Kong were granted residency permits in the Island in 2020, compared with 5,858 in 2019 and 4,148 in 2018. It said 1,576 people from Hong Kong were given permanent residency in Taiwan last year, up from 1,474 in 2019 and 1,090 in 2018.

Previous surveys showed that Taiwan, the United Kingdom, Canada and Australia were top destinations for Hong Kong’s emigrants amid the tightening political environment in the special administrative region.

Travel bubble

Authorities in Hong Kong and Singapore announced on Monday that they had decided to defer the target date of the inaugural flights under the travel bubble scheme scheduled for May 26.

The governments said they remained strongly committed to the scheme and would make an announcement on or before June 13.

Yiu Si-wing, a Hong Kong lawmaker representing the tourism sector, said the postponement of the travel bubble would hurt airlines and hotels more than travel agencies as most participants planned their trips individually. Yiu said the Hong Kong government should now focus on the discussion about the “border reopening” with Macau and the mainland.

Singapore’s Health Ministry said as of Monday noon, 21 local infections and seven imported cases were recorded. Of the local cases, 11 were untraceable. Ministry investigations showed that the cases were in the community, and there erre no new cases in the dormitories.

Leung said it was unlikely that Singapore would be able to control its epidemic within the coming two weeks. He said the relaunch of the travel bubble between Hong Kong and Singapore would depend on the vaccination rate of Singapore and the virus transmission in the community.

As of May 10, more than 1.28 million people, or 22.5% of the population in Singapore, had been fully-vaccinated while 1.85 million people had received their first dose.

As of Sunday, about 787,200 people, or 10.5% of the Hong Kong population, had received their second dose while 1.17 million got their first dose.

The Centre for Health Protection said Monday that only one imported case, from Indonesia, was recorded in Hong Kong.

At around 5:30pm on Monday, a woman reported to the police that her domestic worker, 24, fainted in a flat at Cheung Tung House, Tung Tau Estate in Wong Tai Sin, local media reported. The Sri Lankan helper received a dose of the BioNTech vaccine at 3pm but fell into a coma two hours later. She has been sent to Queen Elizabeth Hospital.

A 31-year-old Filipino domestic worker who received the BioNTech shot last Wednesday was taken to Princess Margaret Hospital for treatment. Her condition had once turned critical and remained serious on Saturday.

Lai Chi Kok Park Sports Centre on May 12, 2021 Credit: Facebook

Outreach vaccination

The government said it would start providing outreach Covid-19 vaccination for workers at construction sites, consultancy firms and public utilities at the end of this month.

Lam Kin-wing, president of the Hong Kong Construction Association, told RTHK that contractors had reacted positively to the idea.

“Some contractors told us workers support this vaccination arrangement because it’s convenient. They can get it in the afternoon, and then go home to rest, so they don’t have to take any days off,” Lam said. “Of course if they feel unwell afterwards they could take time off too.”

Read: HK urged to donate unused vaccines before expiry