Editorial : Plugging the quarantine exemption loophole

【明報專訊】THE GOVERNMENT has decided to scrap the existing quarantine exemption arrangements for most "exempted groups" except those providing emergency services or people who are indispensable. Since the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic, quarantine exemption arrangements have been the major loopholes repeatedly seen in the city's guard against the import of infected cases. Imported cases related to exemption arrangements for seafarers, air crew members and the family members of diplomats have surfaced repeatedly, which have triggered the alarm of pandemic risk at best and resulted in community outbreaks at worst. Because of the different considerations of different government departments, too much case-by-case consideration has been made and the risks have been underestimated. The loopholes should have long been plugged. No matter from the perspective of public health or the economic perspective, the top priority for Hong Kong at this stage should be bringing Covid case numbers to zero and reopening the border with the mainland. Abolishing most quarantine exemption arrangements is in accord with the need of guarding against the import of infected cases and will certainly contribute to the earlier reopening of the border. Many foreign companies in Hong Kong have to send people to the mainland to handle business matters. When the government paves the way to the reopening of the border by scrapping quarantine exemption arrangements, these foreign companies also stand to benefit. The authorities should explain harder to dispel their worries about whether the new measures will affect the status of Hong Kong as an international finance centre.