All Hongkongers will be able to get a Covid-19 vaccine at most community inoculation centres without booking from Wednesday, a move designed to encourage more people to get the jabs.
The measure was announced on Monday as the city confirmed five new Covid-19 cases, all of which were imported and involved two arrivals from the United States, and one each from Myanmar, the Philippines and Kenya. Fewer than five people tested preliminary-positive.
The city’s total number of confirmed cases rose to 12,165, with 213 related deaths.
The change means prior booking will not be needed at 21 of the city’s community vaccination centres for residents aged 12 or over seeking a BioNTech shot, or those aged at least 18 planning to get the Sinovac vaccine.
“After evaluating the actual situation, we have decided to extend the arrangement to cover all eligible persons for receiving vaccinations to further enable members of the public to get vaccinated,” a government spokesman said.
However, the arrangement is not available at the five community vaccination centres operated by private hospitals.
So far 4.4 million people, or 58.7 per cent of the city’s 7.5 million population, have received at least one dose of vaccine.
People in their 40s have the highest vaccination rate, with more than 80 per cent having been jabbed at least once. At the other end of the spectrum, the inoculation rate among those aged 80 and above remains low, with just 13.6 per cent having had at least one shot.
The walk-in arrangement was first introduced on July 29 when people aged 70 or over could get a Covid-19 jab at the community vaccination centres. It was later extended to those aged 60 and above, and to children aged at least 12.
Same-day tickets will be distributed daily from 7.45am on a first come, first served basis this month and next.
Starting from November, when the operating hours of those centres will be reduced, tickets will be given out 15 minutes before they open.
People who want to book a time at a specific vaccination centre or general outpatient clinics under the Hospital Authority can still do so.
Meanwhile, Iran will become the latest high-risk country to have its Covid-19 vaccination records recognised by the Hong Kong government.
The arrangement, which comes into effect on Wednesday, also includes recognising vaccination records issued by Chile and New Zealand, which are not considered high risk. Travellers from high-risk nations must hold recognised vaccination records to enter the city.
Monday also marked the first day of the Penny’s Bay Quarantine Centre opening to fully vaccinated foreign domestic helpers arriving from high-risk countries, such as the Philippines and Indonesia.
Thirty-eight helpers have checked in at the facility to start their 21-day isolation period, however booking for the facility has been temporarily suspended, with the Labour and Welfare Bureau staying it needed more time to review reservation procedures.
Separately, education minister Kevin Yeung Yun-hung revealed one school in the city would become the first to resume full-day, in-person classes across all grades on Monday after meeting the requirement of having 70 per cent of its pupils vaccinated against Covid-19.
He said the bureau had received applications from 31 schools to resume lessons on campus. Two of those had applied to resume classes for the whole school, while 29 had applied for certain grades. Five schools had already been granted permission to do so.
Additional reporting by Victor Ting