Transcript of remarks of Command and Coordination Group press conference (with photo/video)
The Chief Executive, Mr John Lee, held a Command and Coordination Group press conference today (September 23). Also joining were the Secretary for Health, Professor Lo Chung-mau, the Secretary for Transport and Logistics, Mr Lam Sai-hung, and the Deputy Secretary for Health (Special Duties), Mr Vincent Fung. Following is the transcript of remarks of the press conference:
Reporter: Good afternoon. Why isn’t the Government rolling out “0+0” policy given that Professor Lo (Secretary for Health, Professor Lo Chung-mau) said inbound travellers haven’t been putting pressure on the medical system in Hong Kong? Is the relaxation this time the only plan the Government has right now? Or is this a part of a larger timetable to scrap more COVID measures? And the second question, how confident are you that the relaxation will be effective in encouraging more incoming business travel given that travellers still can’t enter premises like restaurants for the first three days? And do you have any specific target as to how much you want incoming travel to increase by? Thank you.
Chief Executive: I think in the three elements I mentioned, as our road to the future, we emphasise that first of all, aim at one single direction as much as possible, and do it orderly and progressively. And we should take a positive outlook of the situation. We want to introduce measures that we are confident of maintaining the control of the overall epidemic situation. We also want to ensure that as we progress, we can do it in an orderly manner. By introducing this new measure of “0+3”, obviously this is a kind of relaxation from the “3+4”. We want to ensure that we will monitor the situation closely so that all the risks are well controlled, and things can progress in an orderly manner. We will of course, keep monitoring the situation. If there are positive developments as we progress, as I’ve explained, there will be more room for us to do extra measures so that we can have more activities, and more room for us to go about different manoeuvres. The intention is to do it progressively and in an orderly manner. That is why we are now introducing “0+3”, which is actually quite a big improvement from the “3+4”.
The second question about the new measures, how would it attract visitors to Hong Kong? I think it’s not just the “0+3”. When we talk about visitors coming to Hong Kong, of course, they will consider the control measures. They will also consider what are the purposes of the visit? What are the advantages of the visit, and what do they want to do in Hong Kong for their benefits and interests? And I think Hong Kong has always had this attraction. We are the freest economy. We are a place of opportunities. We are a place where the East meets West. We are a place where you will be able to have success stories, and we are also a place where there will be opportunities for us to enter into the market in the Mainland. So all these are factors which will be in the mind of many visitors when they think of coming to Hong Kong. I have said that “0+3” is the measure we introduce now. If there are positive developments, then of course we can have more room to go into further consideration as to how we will allow even more activities and create more convenience.
I think it is important for people to know that we are aiming at one single direction of allowing people to come with more convenience, and they are allowed to go about their activities with maximum possibilities. And you can also see after the third day, in fact, he can visit in the same way as the Hong Kong citizens, places where they can even eat and drink.
Secretary for Health: May I provide some data to supplement the reason why I do not agree with what you said that there is no risk for “0+0” if we adopt now? We have data to show that “3+4” will not increase the risk of community spread in Hong Kong and we also have just now provided information and data to tell you why we think that. We estimate that “0+3” will not increase the risk of infection in Hong Kong because after three days of Amber Code and two PCR tests, the risk has decreased down to 0.6 per cent which is less than the local situation. But I am sorry that we do not have any data to say that “0+0” will not lead to a community threat and higher risk because we know that the inbound travellers’ positive rate is now still 3 per cent, which is definitely higher than the local situation. At the same time, there are new variants, new viral variants which are coming up from different parts of the world, and we are closely monitoring, to make sure that these new variants will not come in. That is one of the reasons that we are so conscientious about PCR tests for these inbound travellers and make sure that we will be doing sequencing for these PCR positive cases to check whether there are new variants coming in.
Reporter: Hong Kong has been known for its most stringent COVID policy in the world for over two years, and this shakes the confidence of those you want to attract. So what safeguards do you have to ensure that this latest policy will not be reversed, given that COVID constantly evolves? And second question is, what does the scrapping of hotel quarantine mean for alignment with China’s own policies? Do we foresee any delay in the course of reopening with the Mainland? Thank you.
Chief Executive: First of all, I have explained many times the five principles that Hong Kong Government adopts in designing the anti-COVID measures, in other words all the measures that we consider and roll out, take into consideration the prevailing local situation. We have to ensure that our hospital service can cope; we have to protect the very young and the very old who are high-risk groups; we have to ensure that we reduce the number of serious cases and death cases; and we want to do it scientifically so that we will control the epidemic through different risk levels by differentiating them into different levels. And then, of course, we want to balance the need for controlling the epidemic with society need, economic need, and also to raise Hong Kong’s competitiveness.
The road to the future has been explained by me at this conference. I aim to take one single direction so that we can maximise our activities, maximise our connectivity with the world, so that we will be attractive to visitors, and I want to roll out our measures in an orderly and progressive manner so that there will not be chaos and people’s experience will be under our expectation. And, also, I take a positive outlook of our future because this wave of epidemic has given me the confidence that our measures can tackle the rising speed of the cases, because the number of cases actually are lower than what we initially expected. I want to explain to you these three elements so that people know that this is the strategy, this is the road into the future of the Hong Kong Government – single direction, progressive and orderly and then also we take a positive outlook into the future. And I’m positive in my outlook of the future because we have proven that we can tackle the situation in the present wave.
Our attractiveness of course is partly related to anti-epidemic measures, but we have a lot of appeal, a lot of strong points, a lot of advantages. When people consider whether they come to Hong Kong of course, besides the epidemic measures, they also consider what benefits and what interests and what gains and how coming into Hong Kong will help their overall development. We are the freest economy in the world; we have a very well-developed infrastructure; our tax rate is very low; our taxation system is simple; and opportunities are abundant in Hong Kong. Also, Hong Kong is the gateway into the Mainland market. So we have a lot of appeal and attractions, and a lot of the advantages, that people will take into consideration whether they come to Hong Kong. And I want to reduce the inconvenience as much as possible, so we will do it progressively and orderly. I’m sure that what we’ll do will be reducing inconvenience and letting people know that we are doing all these in order to maximise the possibility for maximum movements and going about people’s activities in the way they wish, given that after the first three days, they already can go to places in the same way as normal Hong Kong citizens, where they can eat and drink. Then they will find that Hong Kong is creating opportunities and a lot of convenience to them in the context of the epidemic.
Having said that, if these measures are successful and things go well, then of course we’ll be considering other new measures to allow even more activities in Hong Kong and also allowing more convenience for travellers to come to Hong Kong. I’m optimistic that the measures that we roll out on this occasion will be welcomed by people who want to come to Hong Kong.
(Please also refer to the Chinese portion of the transcript.)
Ends/Friday, September 23, 2022
Issued at HKT 20:50