Hong Kong is gearing up to inoculate a few hundred thousand more residents in the priority groups in the next month as the pandemic situation continues to fluctuate and officials worry about a Covid-19 rebound.
The city yesterday began the roll-out of its free and voluntary vaccination programme, with people lining up at five vaccination centres for the Sinovac jabs. This comes a week after the Chinese vaccine arrived in Hong Kong, following an initial delay.
The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines, meant to arrive on Thursday but delayed due to export controls, are slated to reach Hong Kong today.
The government said some 70,000 people have made appointments online, taking up all available slots for the next two weeks since applications opened on Tuesday .
About 2.4 million people – including healthcare workers and the elderly aged 60 and above – of the 7.5 million population are given priority access to the vaccines via online booking.
Yesterday, Civil Service Secretary Patrick Nip, who helms the vaccination roll-out, said the online booking system will reopen on Monday at 9am.
He said three more community vaccination centres will be added to the existing list of five so more people can get the jabs and these centres will begin vaccinations on March 6.
Addressing criticism that some of the elderly find it hard to book an appointment online, Mr Nip urged them to get help from the post office or the office of the public housing estate where they live.
Officials previously said that there will be 29 community vaccination centres islandwide, and 1,200 private doctors from 1,500 clinics have been roped in. The jabs will also be available at the 18 general clinics run by the Hospital Authority.
Speaking to the media during an inspection at a vaccination centre, Mr Nip said private doctors will receive the vaccines on Monday or so, and jabs can be given from the following day at the earliest.
Health officials yesterday said the territory recorded 24 new infections, of which 18 are local and one with an unknown source. This brings the tally to over 10,900 cases and 198 deaths since the pandemic started.
Another 20 patients have been found to be Covid-19 positive in preliminary tests, of which 11 are from a ballooning cluster in a Tsim Sha Tsui mall, K11 Musea.
So far, 19 confirmed cases have been linked to the outbreak at Mr Ming’s Chinese Dining restaurant, which is located in the mall.
With sources of up to 40 per cent of local infections in Hong Kong unknown, officials said any untraceable case will have their close contacts in the seven days prior to the onset of symptoms put under quarantine for 14 days.
And if these close contacts show symptoms, their household members will also have to be in quarantine for three days.
Meanwhile, the new North Lantau Hospital Hong Kong Infection Control Centre yesterday opened one ward with 48 isolation beds – out of a total of 816 in the centre – to admit Covid-19 patients aged 16 to 65 with mild or moderate symptoms. It is part of government efforts to ease the burden on public hospitals.