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Get Covid vaccine or pay for regular tests: Hong Kong delivers ultimatum for key sector workers

In an attempt to boost inoculation rates, Hong Kong has announced that workers in key sectors will have to either get vaccinated or regularly pay for Covid tests on their own.

The chief executive of Hong Kong, Carrie Lam, unveiled the decision to require civil servants, as well as workers in the education, care-home, and healthcare systems, to get vaccinated against the coronavirus or pay for regular testing themselves.

The decision comes as uptake remains slow in the city, with Lam slamming Hong Kong residents for not rushing to get vaccinated: “If it’s purely a personal option not to get vaccinated and help society achieve herd immunity, that’s not something a responsible government should allow or tolerate.”

Only workers within those sectors who have a health condition that prohibits them from getting vaccinated will be excused from having to pay for their own tests.

A reluctance to get vaccinated was observed in the city earlier this year. According to a University of Hong Kong poll conducted in January, 29.5% of respondents expressed willingness to take China’s Sinovac vaccine. Meanwhile, 56% trusted Pfizer/BioNTech’s mRNA shot. Overall, under half of the respondents said they were likely to get vaccinated.

While the vaccination rates are deemed to be too low in the city, various schemes have been rolled out to incentivize people. Vaccinated residents of Hong Kong could stand a chance at winning apartments in the city by being entered into a lucky draw. Other incentives have included hotel stays, a Tesla, as well as other cash and item prizes.

According to figures from August 2, over 48% of Hong Kong’s population of 7.5 million has received the first dose of a coronavirus vaccine, while 36.7% is fully inoculated.

Hong Kong has recorded very few coronavirus infections by implementing closures of government offices, schools, and bars soon after reporting its first case in January 2020. Since the pandemic began, under 12,000 positive infections have been registered in the city, with 212 people having succumbed to the virus.