Hong Kong to extend COVID-19 vaccine pass scheme to 5-year-olds

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Hong Kong will include children aged five and above in its COVID-19 vaccine pass scheme from the end of September, the government said on Thursday, as authorities try to boost inoculation levels there.

People aged 12 and above currently need to show proof of vaccination to enter restaurants, malls, supermarkets and sports facilities in the Chinese special administrative region.

From September 30, children aged 5 to 11 will be required to have one vaccine shot, and two doses by November 30, the government said, adding that there had been a significant number of severe COVID-19 cases involving children who required intensive care.

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Among them, six aged 3 to 11 died, all of whom were unvaccinated or had received only one dose, it said.

Currently 55 percent of children aged 12-19 have had three vaccine shots but just 14 percent in the 3-11 age group. More than 90 percent of Hong Kong’s 7.3 million population have had two doses, according to the government.

Authorities are trying to boost coverage to three, particularly amongst children and the elderly where the rate is around 50 percent.

Hong Kong’s border with the mainland and the rest of the world has been tightly controlled for more than 2-1/2 years, in line with China’s “zero-COVID” policy.

The city is highly reliant on international business and travel, and the restrictions have damaged its economy and led to the exodus of tens of thousands of residents.

Business groups, diplomats and many residents have criticized the COVID-19 rules, saying they threaten Hong Kong’s competitiveness and standing as a global financial center.

Masks are mandated in most places in Hong Kong and gatherings of more than four people prohibited.

Hong Kong has reported more than 1.5 million COVID-19 infections and 9,757 deaths since the pandemic began.

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