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In what’s shaping as very welcome news for Hong Kong employers and employees alike as the city aims to get back to something like normality in 2021, the Covid-19 vaccine roll-out is imminent.

Yesterday (18 Feb), the emergency use of China’s Sinovac vaccine was approved – clearing a significant hurdle for the mass roll-out of a vaccine.

Secretary for the Civil Service, Patrick Nip Tak-kuen, had said previously that the vaccination roll-out would not begin until March, but the imminent arrival of stock from China means the timeline can be brought forward. One million doses of the Sinovac vaccine is expected to arrive today.

It is understood that fresh data provided by the biopharmaceutical firm as requested by the Hong Kong government’s advisory panel indicated an overall efficacy rate of up to 62.3% after a second jab of the vaccine.

However panel advisers said the vaccine’s efficacy was greater than the risks – despite concerns it was not as effective as initially expected.

The Sinovac vaccine has already been rolled out in mainland China and Macau, while Brazil, Chile, Indonesia and Turkey have already begun inoculations with it.

Hong Kong has already approved the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, which has an efficacy rate of around 95%, with the first batches expected to arrive in late February, it was reported in the SCMP.

Healthcare workers, employees in aged care facilities, the elderly, cabin crew and workers of essential trades such as cross-border drivers and others on the front line of the pandemic will be among the first to be offered a jab.

The online registration for the Covid-19 vaccines will commence next Tuesday, with the vaccination programme officially starting next Friday. The government will set up a total of 29 community vaccination centres, 24 will supply the Pfizer-BioNTech jabs and while the rest will use Sinovac.

The moves follows a decision by the Hong Kong government to ease social-distancing restrictions from 18 Feb as Covid case numbers dropped to single digits on Tuesday, for the first time since last November.

Dining-in services have resumed until 10pm, with the dine-in limit increased from two to four people per table.

Also read: Mandatory Covid testing for staff as businesses reopen on 18 Feb

Indoor and outdoor sports venues, gyms, beauty and massage parlours, cinemas, theme parks and museums have also reopened – on the proviso that employees in these industries have a Covid test every fortnight.

Image courtesy The Standard