No Happy Meals or library trips for unvaccinated kids in Hong Kong, as the region tries to compel citizens to get COVID shots

September 9, 2022, 9:00 AM UTC
A child receives a dose of the Sinovac COVID-19 vaccine at a community vaccination center in Hong Kong in February 2022.
Justin Chin—Bloomberg/Getty Images

Unvaccinated kids as young as age 5 will soon be unable to get a Happy Meal in Hong Kong—not inside a fast food joint, anyway.

They won’t be allowed in any restaurant, in fact—or indoor play area, library, dental clinic, or other venue, Bloomberg reported this week, citing a new announcement from the region’s health department.

Similar rules are already in place for those 12 and older, but will be expanded to those 5 and older on Sept. 30. One COVID shot is currently required for those 12 and older, but two shots for children ages 5 to 11 will be needed by Nov. 30, the city’s health director said this week.

Fire exits reportedly sealed in lockdown-area buildings

While Hong Kong’s COVID restrictions aren’t as strict as China’s “zero COVID” policy, the region’s—and the country’s—precautions remain contrary to those of much of the rest of the world, which has taken an approach of “learning to live” with the virus.

Hong Kong recently shortened its quarantine time for travelers entering the city from seven days to three, to be served in an approved hotel. But in mainland China, visitors must spend seven days at a government-run quarantine facility, plus another three in home quarantine.

This week officials extended an already weeklong lockdown in most areas of the Chinese megacity of Chengdu, home to 21 million, after an increase in COVID cases, Bloomberg reported. The city reported 116 new local cases on Wednesday.

Chinese health authorities have cautioned against travel for fall holidays and said travelers will need to provide proof of a negative COVID test taken no more than 48 hours before traveling, and to take another test when they arrive at their destination.

Those in lockdown must test themselves for COVID daily, Bloomberg reports. Those in regions that are not locked down but are at medium or high risk are only allowed out every other day for two hours, and only to get groceries or to meet medical needs, Chengdu officials said Wednesday. Nonessential businesses are shut, and schools are operating online only.

On Monday, a 6.8 magnitude earthquake struck the southwestern Chinese province of Sichuan, and tremors were felt in its capital, Chengdu, according to Bloomberg. Some residents claimed on social media that they couldn’t evacuate buildings because fire exits had been sealed as part of the lockdown.

‘Overly draconian and not something sustainable’

The “zero COVID” approach is “overly draconian and not something sustainable with a virus that can never be eradicated,” Dr. Amesh Adalja, an infectious disease specialist and senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, recently told Fortune.

“It’s mind-boggling. It has to do, really, with the personal political preference of their leader. There’s not anything scientific behind it.”

When COVID lockdowns occur in China, citizens are stuck wherever they are, sometimes in offices, for days on end. “Zero COVID” isn’t overmanaging the pandemic—it’s failing to manage it at all, Adalja contends.

“This is an authoritarian government mismanaging an outbreak, and has been mismanaging the outbreak for two-plus years,” he said. “It’s not as if they don’t know what to do. They know what to do. It’s just illegal to actually say it.”

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