From 3+4 to 0+7

September 08, 2022 10:15
Photo: Bloomberg

It’s high time that we did away with any and all quarantine restrictions for incoming tourists who are triple-jabbed. Hong Kong must open up, for it is only through opening up that we can maintain our rapidly slipping competitiveness and restore (at least a portion, albeit not all – obviously – of) the international community’s confidence and faith in our city’s robustness as a regional hub.

There, I said it. Loud and simple and clear. No more delays, no more waiting, no more excuses. For far too long, we have allowed our city to exist in a state of limbo – one in which we were neither able to connect and reopen to the rest of our own country: mainland China remains a no-go zone given its approach to the pandemic, which is incongruous with that of Hong Kong, and that’s perfectly fine, save from in the eyes of a few select sycophants… yet also one where we were unable to connect with the rest of the world in full. The bizarre, inane, and archaic restrictions have rendered so, so many estranged from the city.

We’re hapless in face of Singapore’s doubling down on efforts to court folks from Hong Kong and abroad. We’re equally hapless as we take hit after hit in the international media for being a reclusive hermit city that is adhering to ludicrous restrictions that have no place for any international financial capital. Such haplessness is not only detrimental to our fortunes as China’s gateway to the world and the world’s entry point into China – it has also fundamentally made life very, very difficult for bureaucrats and administrators in our city, who are trying their very best to rebuild the city in the aftermath of the past few years of political instability and broader turbulence. We deserve better – and so does our government! So does our civil service! So does China, which has every right to anticipate that Hong Kong must continue to play a pivotal role as the fulcrum of globalisation for the world’s second largest economic power.

What would a 0+7 scheme look like? No hotel-based quarantine, no home quarantine, perhaps some restrictions (for the sake of buffer and minimising risks) on entry into ‘high-risk’ locations such as hotels and bars. The least we could do is 0+7 for those who are unvaccinated or partially vaccinated, and 0+0 for those who are fully vaccinated and/or have recently recovered from COVID-19. The reasoning is unmistakable – a vast majority of current transmissions occur domestically. Imported cases take up an incredibly small proportion of cases relative to domestic cases. There is no public health or scientific justification for the prohibitions and inhibitory measures that render Hong Kong unattractive, uncompetitive, uninnovative, and decoupled from the rest of the world when it comes to physical and geopolitical connectivity.

All of this is to say, it’s high time we did away with the whole 3+4 (2+5?) 5+2? 10+10? 1+1?) saga. Such hyper-prudent isolationism may have bought us time at the start of the pandemic; it might have been necessary in face of the vast unknown unknowns during 2020, in relation to the then-underanalysed pathogen. Yet it’s 2022, it’s nearly Q3, by Jove! It’s time to move on! It’s high time that we took the advice of actual experts and public health practitioners seriously – as Chief Executive John Lee has repeatedly suggested (this is worthy of commendation), and moved towards reopening Hong Kong in full.

Once again, in preemption/anticipation of those who charge that I am thus laying waste to the many lives who would be hampered by such reopening – make no mistake: I am not an apologist or defendant of the blasé and laissez-faire approach adopted by some in the West towards COVID-19. I am not a fan or advocate of so-called ‘tangping’ (lying flat). Yet precisely because we could ill-afford to lie flat, to remain obstinate and unduly opinionated, it is the boosting of vaccination rates, as opposed to the continued semi-closure of our borders, to which we must turn. Let’s get people (elderly and kids) jabbed up, get Hong Kong opened up, and make Hong Kong – truly – great again!

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Assistant Professor, HKU