Chinese flock to Hong Kong, Macau to get private Covid booster shots

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Taipei, Jan 13 (IANS) Private services offering Chinese travellers access to mRNA vaccines are attracting droves of mainlanders to Hong Kong and Macau seeking a booster shot that their government has refused to approve, according to a media report.

As part of its dismantling of the country’s zero-Covid policy last month, China’s government also lifted quarantine and other border restrictions, The Guardian reported

It prompted a wave of interest in overseas travel, particularly for the upcoming lunar new year holiday later this month. However, there also appears to be a large contingent chasing the mRNA bivalent vaccines, the report said.

Throughout the pandemic, the Chinese government has allowed only domestically produced vaccines for its citizens, refusing to approve foreign-made jabs. Health experts and medical studies have raised concerns about the efficacy of China’s vaccines, which use an inactivated virus, compared with the mRNA vaccines available elsewhere, The Guardian reported.

The appetite for the overseas vaccine is difficult to quantify, but a rash of services offering travel packages and self-funded shots in Hong Kong and Macau have sprung up in recent weeks. Clinics in Thailand and Singapore have also reported increased interest from Chinese travellers, the report said.

The BioNTech/Pfizer mRNA vaccine is free for the residents of Hong Kong and Macau. On Thursday, the Hong Kong government announced it would no longer provide free shots of any vaccine for non-residents from next week, in response to the “recent increase in demand”.

On Chinese social media platforms, C3Hong Kong Life, a travel service for mainlanders, advertised bookings from 8 January for people to travel to Hong Kong and get the shot for HK$1,680.

It offered a full vaccination travel package providing “expert guidance, vaccine appointments, round-trip itinerary arrangements, border pickup and other services”.

The Macau University of Science and Technology has a website for people to book a vaccine shot for prices beginning at HK$1,360. All appointments – about 100 a day – are booked until mid February, The Guardian reported.

Staff at one cross-border travel agency, xBorder, said they had facilitated “a lot” of people travelling to Macau – where entry restrictions were looser than Hong Kong – in the last quarter of 2022, and were getting a lot of interest from people wanting to go to Hong Kong.

–IANS

san/arm

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