Commerce and Economic Development Secretary Edward Yau has defended the government’s stringent quarantine measures, saying the 21-day quarantine period is needed for arrivals from parts of the world where there are a high number of Covid-19 cases.

Yau made the comments on Friday following reports of concern by some in the business sector that the SAR is at risk of losing executives and investment because of the long quarantine period.

On RTHK’s Money Talk programme, he said countries like the US and UK have seen major rebounds in infections, and that a lot of cases are detected either at the test and hold centre at the airport or during the quarantine period.

Yau said he understood the frustrations of people who have received both Covid jabs feeling like they’ve been “locked up” for 21 days, but said that even after tests and vaccinations, Covid cases are still being detected.

He stressed that the authorities need to protect the local community from a potential Delta variant outbreak, and that this quarantine period is adjusted in terms of risk profiling countries where visitors are coming from.

Yau also said that only “a handful” of countries are placed under group A as “high risk”.

He said it was not fair to say the government was aiming for either “100 percent vaccination” or a “zero Covid” strategy as a prerequisite for re-opening borders, and said the government’s aim was to “strike a balance between a safe and vigilant policy” to contain the disease.

“We have seen the fourth wave, which hit us during the middle of the year, which caused a few weeks of tightening and social distancing. Had it not been for the safeguards in the boundaries, many of these social distancing measures might still need to be maintained,” he said, adding that the local community wouldn’t be allowed to continue “as freely as possible” otherwise.

“But of course, I fully understand and share the sentiment that whoever needs to do business, to sign a contract, or to attend to important clients, and also not to mention seeing family again, of course these are genuine concerns,” Yau said.

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