Explainer: Arriving in Hong Kong and unsure about city's vaccine pass scheme?

Here's what you need to know

International travellers are now allowed to enter Hong Kong again. (Photo: South China Morning Post)

HONG KONG: Hong Kong ended its entry ban on overseas travellers on May 1 but under the city's vaccine pass scheme, arrivals may find they cannot enter certain premises from the end of the month if they have not received three doses of a Covid-19 shot.

Health authorities have announced they would issue a "provisional vaccine pass" to arrivals. Here are the new arrangements.

1. What is a 'provisional vaccine pass'?

Under the first phase of the city's vaccine pass scheme introduced on Feb 24, those aged 12 and above had to show proof of having received at least one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine when entering government venues and 23 other types of premises, including restaurants and shopping centres.

For the purpose of the scheme, several methods are available for a person to present their vaccination records to enter premises, including using the government's "Leave Home Safe", "iAM Smart" or "eHealth" mobile applications. A printed local vaccination record with QR code can also be used.

Under the second phase, which commenced on April 30, residents aged 12 or above must have received their second jab, and their third or booster shot by May 31 when the third phase starts. Recovered Covid-19 patients do not need to take a booster shot. They can use their recovery record QR code, which serves as a substitute for one dose of a vaccine.

Inbound travellers - both Hong Kong residents and visitors - who may only have received two doses, can declare their non-local vaccination or recovery records to the authorities, and they will be issued with a provisional vaccine pass. It is valid for 180 days from the arrival date.

During the period, travellers may present the provisional pass as a substitute for the vaccination record but they will be required to get the third dose locally during their stay.

2. How do travellers get a 'provisional vaccine pass'?

From Thursday, all those entering the city will be issued with a "provisional vaccine pass" QR code together with a compulsory quarantine order at border checkpoints.

They can declare their non-local vaccination details when making the "Health & Quarantine Information Declaration" on the Department of Health's online platform. Upon arrival, officers at control points will check their vaccination record and issue the compulsory quarantine order and vaccination record QR code for local use.

Those who have already arrived in Hong Kong or are not subject to compulsory quarantine, including those entering via the "Return2hk", and "Come2hk" schemes, can declare their arrival information through 18 designated post offices to obtain the pass.

Details are available here.

3. Can travellers use recovery records as a vaccine pass?

Inbound travellers can declare infection details at the Department of Health's online platform and their proof of infection will be checked upon arrival from Thursday onwards. They will then be issued with a compulsory quarantine order and a vaccination record QR code with recovery status and the provisional vaccine pass QR code.

As a transitional measure before June 30, people who previously recovered from Covid-19 outside Hong Kong may still present the infection or recovery records issued or recognised by relevant health authorities for "vaccine pass" purposes. Subsequently, they are required to use the recovery record QR code or the vaccination record QR code with their recovery status incorporated.

What are the benefits of a second Covid-19 vaccine booster shot?

Those already in the city can declare their infection details at the 18 designated post offices. The recovery record QR code is valid within 180 days from the recovery date.

They are only required to either present the recovery record QR code or the provisional vaccine pass to enter specified premises.

The government has also updated the "Leave Home Safe" risk-exposure app for the public to include the provisional vaccine pass.

4. Will previously infected travellers be sent to isolation facilities if they test positive upon arrival?

If their recovery is within three months of infection, and a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) nucleic acid test conducted at the airport finds a low viral load, travellers can undergo compulsory quarantine in a designated hotel instead of being sent to an isolation facility.

The Department of Health will make the decision based on the PCR nucleic acid test result or the recovery record.

5. What should travellers do if they have received vaccines overseas?

Their shots will be recognised if the vaccines are specified in this list.

But when the vaccine pass scheme proceeds to its third stage on May 31, they will be required to get the third dose during their stay in Hong Kong.

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