Singapore health minister Ong Ye Kung to visit Hong Kong for global conference

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Kok Xinghui in Singapore
Published: 9:13pm, 23 Nov, 2021

Singapore’s health minister Ong Ye Kung will be in Hong Kong on Wednesday for a conference on global health, the first time “zero-Covid” Hong Kong has hosted a minister from the city state since the beginning of the pandemic.
The visit comes three months after the two cities dropped an ill-fated plan for a travel bubble that was twice suspended at the eleventh hour.
Ong – who is among a dozen experts attending the inaugural Asia Summit on Global Health to discuss how countries can work together to prepare for potential health challenges – would meet senior Hong Kong government officials, including Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, during the trip, said Singapore’s health ministry.
Singapore’s Covid-19 numbers hover around 1,600 to 2,000 new infections daily. On Monday the country relaxed a two-month-old restriction that limited people dining at restaurants to groups of two. People are now allowed to dine in groups of five.
The country has also reopened its borders, allowing quarantine-free travel for vaccinated people from 21 countries, including areas of Europe where infection numbers are rising.
Hong Kong, meanwhile, still pursues a policy of eliminating the virus, quarantining incoming travellers for up to 21 days. It usually reports no more than a handful of new infections a day, mostly in incoming travellers, and on Monday reported zero cases.

Before the roll-out of mass vaccinations and the reopening of borders elsewhere in the world, the two cities had from November last year been planning a travel bubble. However, the first attempt was scraped a day before launch following a rise in cases in Hong Kong. A second attempt to launch the bubble on May 26 was dashed by rising infections in Singapore.

In Singapore, 85 per cent of the 5.45 million population are fully vaccinated, compared to 60 per cent of Hong Kong’s 7.39 million.
The health summit includes a policy dialogue session that Ong will take part in alongside other health ministers and senior health officials from the region, as well as representatives from the World Health Organization. The session is expected to cover public health-care challenges during the pandemic and how to foster greater collaboration across the health ecosystem.
Lam and Dr Soumya Swaminathan, chief scientist for the World Health Organization, are among the speakers.

The summit is being organised by the Hong Kong government and the Trade Development Council (TDC) and is themed on “Shaping a Resilient and Sustainable Future”. It aims to boost international investment and promote collaboration between the biotech, medical and health-care sectors in Hong Kong, mainland China and the rest of the world. The summit will also examine opportunities presented by the Greater Bay Area and improvements in health-care technology.
Margaret Fong Shun-man, executive director of the TDC, said Covid-19 had highlighted the need for international collaboration and continual investment in health care. She said ageing populations in Asian countries and a rise in income levels had also led to growing demand for more quality health-care products.

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