Covid-19: Hong Kong considering China-style health code and real-name tracing app upgrade – health chief

Hongkongers may be required to submit real-name registration in order to use the contact-tracing LeaveHomeSafe app in the future, the city’s health chief has said. The city may also adopt a “health code” system similar to the one used on the mainland, in a bid to curb the latest outbreak of Covid infections, according to Lo Chung-mau.

Secretary for Health Lo Chung-mau. Photo: GovHK.

Appearing on a TV programme on Sunday, Lo was asked if LeaveHomeSafe will eventually come with a tracking function to better trace Covid patients.

“Contact-tracing is not our priority, the more important thing to do may be having real-name registration, and having an effective way to notify the public of the health risk they may face,” Lo said.

A man scanning the “Leave Home Safe” QR code. Photo: GovHK.

The health chief added that the current Compulsory Testing Notice was not actually a mandatory regulation and there was no mechanism barring people who are infected from entering some venues. He said that was “unfair” to other people.

Health code

Lo also said that Hong Kong could potentially roll out its own version of China’s health code system.

“In fact, those who are infected are the minority, [whilst] the majority of people are not infected. If we allow the infected to roam freely, it would be the freedom of the non-infected being jeopardised,” Lo said.

Hong Kong Health Code. Photo: GovHK.

The mainland, and neighbouring Macau, have been using a health code system with three levels: red, yellow and green. Most venues, such as public facilities and restaurants, would require patrons to show a green code to enter.

Hongkongers, in the future, may also be asked to do Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) tests more frequently, especially those considered “high risk,” such as healthcare workers.

Lo said that on top of the current daily rapid antigen test requirement, PCR testing may be needed for such groups – perhaps once a week, or up to every 48 hours.

Hong Kong’s pro-establishment lawmakers pushed for the city to adopt a mainland-style code system early in the pandemic. In turn, activist Joshua Wong said on Facebook that digital health surveillance was comparable to “electronic handcuffs.”

Authorities in central China allegedly used the Covid tracking system to halt a planned protest last month, according to state media, sparking criticism.

Close contacts

The government on Sunday also announced that Commissioner of Customs and Excise Louise Ho was undergoing quarantine as she was identified as a close contact after a colleague tested preliminary positive for Covid-19.

The Commissioner of Customs and Excise (designate) Louise Ho. Photo: GovHK.

Meanwhile on Saturday, Secretary for the Civil Service Ingrid Yeung led civil service volunteers on a vaccination outreach programme to the outlying islands. Elderly residents on Lantau Island, Peng Chau, Cheung Chau and Lamma Island benefitted from the Home Vaccination Service drive.

Hong Kong reported 2,992 Covid infections on Sunday, with more than 2,700 of them locally transmitted. The Centre for Health Protection warned that the number of infections may double in the coming week or so.

The city has reported a total of 1,268,062 infections since the pandemic began and 9,410 deaths.

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