HONG KONG: All incoming travellers from overseas must complete their Covid-19 health declaration online from Thursday before flying into Hong Kong under a new requirement by the government to speed up processing at the airport.
Under a trial scheme announced on Sunday, arrivals will have to complete a declaration form on the Department of Health's website to obtain a QR code before boarding their flights.
While the declaration system has been in place since June 2020, a government spokesman noted that some people only logged on to register upon arriving in Hong Kong.
"[It] may hinder others, who have valid health declarations, from arriving in Hong Kong during peak hours," he added.
The validity period of the health declaration QR code will be 96 hours, which means users travelling to the city can submit the form online as early as three days before their flight.
Health authorities on Sunday confirmed 4,250 coronavirus infections, including 186 imported cases. Eight new deaths linked to the virus were also reported. The city's Covid-19 tally stands at 1,321,739 cases, with 9,469 related fatalities.
Executive Council member Ko Wing-man earlier said a two-colour health code previously floated by officials would take effect soon to cover coronavirus patients and incoming travellers under quarantine.
Dr Ko, who headed the Food and Health Bureau from 2012 to 2017, added that the code should also be extended to close contacts of coronavirus patients in the city and those under mandatory testing orders.
New Health Minister Lo Chung-mau earlier argued that the government's risk-exposure app "Leave Home Safe" needed to have real-name registration functions to improve contact-tracing. He also said the app could be enhanced with a two-colour code system similar to the version used in mainland China, to limit the mobility of those deemed high-risk.
Lo said the system would have colour codes to identify patients and high-risk individuals, with red denoting a positive Covid-19 result and yellow representing an active quarantine status for arrivals, as the government was considering plans to allow arrivals to spend part of their hotel quarantine at home.
But critics had raised concern over personal privacy, while technology chief Sun Dong had dismissed the need for real-name registration.
Dr Ko told a television programme on Sunday he would support efforts in strengthening the real-name registration function of the "Leave Home Safe" app.
"Actually through the use of many smartphone applications, we have been providing lots of personal information, such as HKID numbers, to authorities and others. So personally I wouldn't oppose the idea, but I think we have not reached the stage where it must be done," Dr Ko said.
He added that he agreed with the government's direction of introducing the red and yellow codes, but did not think they should be limited only to patients and arrivals.
"[The purpose of the health code] is to identify those infected or who could be infected, so that during the incubation period, which is short, they can be restricted by the yellow code, and cannot go to high-risk places," he said, referring to restaurants and bars. "They can still use public transport or go to work, as long as they wear a mask."
Dr Ko also sounded a note of caution on pandemic measures, saying the health code system should be made more specific and targeted if it proved helpful.