Hong Kong to Require Vaccination for Overseas Travel

Residents must be jabbed with the necessary doses at least two weeks before taking their trips.

Victoria Harbour and the skyscrapers of Hong Kong at sunset. (Photo: Manson Yim/Unsplash)

Hong Kong’s Chief Executive Carrie Lam has written on her Facebook page that being vaccinated against Covid-19 will be a prerequisite for local residents who wish to travel, “so as to make sure they would not be infected when they are abroad, and would not bring the virus back to Hong Kong.” She said the government would make it mandatory when it negotiates travel bubbles with other countries or places.

As an example, the rule is already in place for the upcoming quarantine-free arrangement with Singapore; only fully vaccinated Hong Kong residents are eligible to enter the Lion City under the scheme, while there is no such requirement on visitors coming from Singapore. According to public broadcaster RTHK, one prominent medical expert is urging residents to get their shots “unless they plan to never leave Hong Kong.”

The territory’s inoculation program is making slow progress in the face of high levels of vaccine hesitancy. Observers have attributed this to a combination of factors, including deep mistrust in the government, worries over potential side-effects, and a general lack of urgency. The latter is particularly acute as Hong Kong has not experienced a Covid-19 outbreak on the scale of those seen in previously hard-hit cities such as New York and London, or alarming surges like the ones now afflicting Bangkok and Osaka.

As of May 26, the vaccine take-up rate still remains under 20 percent of the population, with less than a million people fully inoculated against the virus. Hong Kong has procured enough of the precious vaccines from Sinovac and BioNTech to cover its entire population of 7.5 million, but the territory may have to throw away millions of doses of the BioNTech vaccine as they are nearing their expiry date.

These shots are available for any Hong Kong residents aged 16 and above, and the rollout is now being extended to two non-resident groups. About 40,000 residents of Mainland China who hold two-way entry-exit permits can begin booking their vaccination appointments starting tomorrow, while Hong Kong’s 13,000 refugees will be eligible for the free jabs from July.

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