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Balanced approach to curbing virus

(To watch the full media session with sign language interpretation, click here.)   Chief Executive John Lee today said he has asked the Secretary for Health to review the current anti-epidemic measures, aiming to strike a balance between containing the virus spread and reducing the inconvenience to travellers.   Meeting the media this morning before chairing the first meeting of the new-term Executive Council, Mr Lee said the Secretary for Health is considering how the duration of quarantine should be handled.   “I am giving him time to look at the statistics so that he will formulate some options for me to consider.”   At the same time, the Government will strive to keep the COVID-19 pandemic under control and protect those who are more vulnerable to the virus, he noted.   “One of the important measures is to make good use of the polymerase chain reaction-based nucleic acid test so that we can be certain that we will be able to identify those who are infected early, separate

Quarantine adjustment recommended

The scientific committees under the Centre for Health Protection today recommended that the Government adjust the compulsory quarantine for people who arrive from medium or low-risk places at designated hotels to 14 days.   Scientific Committee on Emerging & Zoonotic Diseases Chairman Prof David Hui told reporters after attending the committees’ joint meeting that there was growing evidence supporting the increased transmissibility of the Delta variant.   He pointed out that the infection with Delta variant results in similarly high viral loads in vaccinated and unvaccinated people. Fully vaccinated people can still spread the virus to others after being infected with COVID-19 carrying the Delta variant.   Currently, fully vaccinated people arriving from medium-risk or low-risk places who meet certain criteria can undergo compulsory quarantine as short as seven days in a designated quarantine hotel with self-monitoring in the subsequent seven days.   Given that there are about 12% of the imported cases involving fully vaccinated people whose cases were detected beyond the seventh day after arrival, seven days’ hotel quarantine would be insufficient, Dr Hui said.   “Take the example of the domestic helper who arrived from the US, her specimen was taken on the 12th day of quarantine and confirmed COVID-19 positive on the 13th day of quarantine. The cycle threshold value was 16.5, indicating a very high viral load.   “So that means the seven days’ hotel quarantine would be insufficient, at least we have a local example.   “Therefore, changing to 14 days of hotel quarantine for the time being would be a more prudent approach.”   Despite some data based on modelling that 10 days of quarantine would be sufficient and the COVID-19 detection rate would be up to 98%, the Government is still not prepared to accept the 1% to 2% risk of leaking COVID-19 cases into the community, he added.   The committees recommended that people arriving from medium or low-risk places have to undergo quarantine for 14 days at a designated hotel and self-monitor in the subsequent seven days even if they have completed the full course of COVID-19 vaccines, tested negative for COVID-19 and obtained positive result on antibodies on arrival.  
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