Hong Kong confirmed on Monday that its vaccine bubble will be expanded to include shopping malls and supermarkets, but said exemptions and random inspections would happen at some sites, as authorities battles a surge in Covid-19 infections.
The government will launch a controversial “vaccine passport” on Thursday that allows only inoculated people to enter places such as supermarkets and clubhouses, a move some critics say raises privacy concerns in the Asian financial hub.
The plan requires those aged 12 and above, except for those with medical exemptions, to have taken at least one dose of a vaccine in order to enter the specified premises.
The final stage of the scheme, by the end of June, will see those older than 18 required to have had three vaccine doses, authorities said.
Amid concerns over how the system will be policed and implemented, authorities said certain exemptions would be granted those who must pass through shopping malls during commutes and also for those ordering takeaway food.
Random inspections will also be performed at some venues, amid limited resources.
“We know that, for some premises, there are really operational difficulties to ensure each and every person has passed through this kind of active checking,” said Kevin Choi, deputy secretary for food and health.
As a result, in places such as malls, supermarkets, and department stores, authorities have performed passive checking, he added. “Bringing your vaccine pass is the natural thing to do.”
Details of the vaccine pass come as the government prepared to report a record daily high of 7,533 infections, broadcaster TVB said.
The city’s public hospitals have been severely stretched, with occupancy at more than 95%, as they struggle to cope with an influx of patients, including the elderly, many of whom have resisted vaccinations.