Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor recently asked, ‘Don’t we all want to see over 90 per cent of people getting vaccinated, which would help resume normal life, and create better conditions for reopening borders in the future.’
However, with our present zero-Covid strategy, no matter how much of the population is vaccinated, a single untraceable case will bring the city to its knees. Does this sound like a new normal anyone wants to live in?
There has been considerable discussion over whether opening the border with the mainland or the rest of the world is the right strategy. Any doubts regarding Hong Kong’s strategic priorities were clarified by health minister Sophia Chan Siu-chee on Sunday; even if infection rates are brought under control, social distancing measures will still not be fully lifted in early February to avoid jeopardising the mainland border opening. This is something which history and the current Covid-19 situation on the mainland shows is unlikely.
Chan also made it clear that restrictions would be tightened in the future if cases re-emerged. There is no indication that a hypothetical 100 per cent vaccination rate would change this strategy one iota.
Regardless of border openings, the right strategy for Hong Kong is certainly one where vaccinated residents who have done their civic duty can live their lives and send their children to school without fear of getting sent to quarantine, many simply for being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
If Hong Kong businesses cannot be assured of their future operations, particularly in those businesses where all patrons must be vaccinated, there is little light at the end of the tunnel. The government must concretely outline a way out of our present predicament, otherwise many businesses will never reopen, and countless people may soon leave the city.