Skip to content
Menu

Hong Kong’s health chief says ‘one country, two systems’ means there is no need to copy mainland China’s policies

Macao-born Lo Chung-mau insists Hong Kong is “different from Macao” and “can never do absolute zero”.

ARTICLE BY

PUBLISHED

Macao-born Lo Chung-mau insists Hong Kong is “different from Macao” and “can never do absolute zero”.

ARTICLE BY

PUBLISHED

UPDATED: 22 Dec 2023, 4:42 am

Hong Kong Secretary for Health Lo Chung-mau has said that the “one country, two systems” principle implemented in China’s two SARs meant that Hong Kong  could have its own Covid-19 policies and there was no need to copy how the pandemic is handled in mainland China. 

In an interview with South China Morning Post (SCMP), Lo stressed the neighbouring SAR enjoys wide latitude under the principle as he forecast that quarantine-free arrivals with conditions could be allowed in time for a global financial and banking summit scheduled to take place in Hong Kong in November. 

The health chief said he favoured a local health code and more testing not to copy mainland China’s Covid-19 policies but to “better ring-fence cases and ensure the city did not have to return to tightened social measures”, a move he wanted to avoid, SCMP reported.

“We are one country, two systems, in our pandemic policies in the last two years too … the country [China] would not blindly ask Hong Kong to follow its policies. This should delight all our foreign businesses,” he insisted. 

Since assuming his position on 1 July, Lo – who served as the University of Hong Kong-Shenzhen Hospital’s chief executive –  has began to reform the city’s Covid-19 policies which include halting the flight suspensions and plans to cut hotel quarantine time for overseas arrivals from 7 days of hotel quarantine to “5+2”, “3+4”, or even “0+7” policy, with the extra days referring to home isolation.  

In order for this to be realised, however, he recently introduced a real-name registration system for the Hong Kong government’s “Leave Home Safe” risk-exposure app, adding a mainland China-style, colour-coded component to bar Covid-19 patients and quarantining travellers from local premises, and reinstating electronic tracking wristbands for those in home isolation, which came under some criticism.

The cut in hotel quarantine time can be made possible by strictly prohibiting entry into “high-risk venues”, said Lo, who added that more studies need to be carried out before Hong Kong could proceed with changes to the quarantine rules. 

By the time the “Global Financial Leaders Dialogue” and “Global Financial Leaders Investment Summit” are held on 1 and 2 November, respectively, by the Hong Kong Monetary Authority, the word “quarantine” could simply mean polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests and a ban from high-risk activities like bar gatherings, according to SCMP. 

“At least PCR testing is needed. But does quarantine have to be confined to a fixed location? Could it be medical surveillance, plus a yellow code and not appearing in a bar for the first few days? I won’t rule that out,” Lo said. “I very much hope to achieve that as well because I like to travel too.” 

Asked if he was copying Macao’s model with its colour code app similar to mainland China’s system, he underlined, “I’ve never copied others. I only learn from others.” 

Macao-born Lo added that the health code’s main purpose is “not to trap people, we only hope to identify who are really at risk; Hong Kong is a very international city, we are different from Macao, we have different needs,” pointing out that the health code systems designed for the two SARs were different as Macao’s starting point was zero.  

Macao’s Covid-19 cases since last month’s outbreak have surpassed 1,600 as the city continues to aim for zero Covid-19 cases. Despite a quick uptick in numbers in the first two weeks since Covid-19 was found in Macao on 18 June, the past few days have seen daily case drops drop. On 12 July, Macao registered a mere 32 new cases. 

“Hong Kong can never do absolute zero, we have to find our own zero, whether it is Celsius, Fahrenheit or absolute,” said Lo, reiterating an analogy he used before that absolute zero in science as opposed to the layman’s “zero” would kill all life forms and not something the city should pursue, SCMP reported.

Lo has previously been reported to support the zero Covid-19 policy. 

Hong Kong’s current Covid-19 tally is close to 1.3 million cases with 9,420 coronavirus-related deaths since the pandemic began. 

 

UPDATED: 22 Dec 2023, 4:42 am

Send this to a friend