Health experts back govt move to reduce PCR test frequencies on arrival

The government’s decision to halve the number of compulsory PCR tests for airport arrivals to two will not affect the local epidemic, said infectious disease expert Leung Chi-chiu.

Speaking on an RTHK radio program on Friday, the health expert said the imported infections detected only make up about eight percent of the city’s total case tally, which means the threat from inbound travelers is relatively small.

He also said the variant cases found locally, especially for the XBB and BQ1.1 variant strains, are way higher than in imported cases.

The PCR test upon travelers’ arrival is only a measure to help authorities detect if there were any new variants slipping through the borders, while the PCR test requirement could be replaced with rapid tests after travelers enter our community, Leung added.

His view is echoed by Ho Pak-leung, the head of Hong Kong University's Centre for Infection, who said authorities have already imposed enough restrictions on travelers to lower the risk of transmission.

The microbiologist said travelers are required to be vaccinated and must obtain negative RAT results before boarding, which warrants authorities to cancel the medical surveillance and amber code arrangements.

Ho also called on authorities to cancel the LeaveHome Safe mandate where citizens have to scan venues’ QR codes to record their travel history, as authorities have not been using the record for epidemiological investigations.

However, he said the vaccine pass arrangement should be retained to help boost the vaccination rate and prevent unvaccinated individuals from entering high-risk venues.