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Hong Kong universities introduce vaccine rules for students

Hong Kong universities
A woman walks past a small temple (R) near a popular drinking spot (L) in the Central district of Hong Kong on April 29, 2021, as Covid-19 coronavirus social-distancing restrictions on restaurants and bars were eased under new vaccine bubble rules. Source: Anthony Wallace/AFP

Major Hong Kong universities are implementing regulations around COVID-19 vaccinations ahead of the next term in September. Though these new rules will not ban unvaccinated students from campus, they will be required to undergo regular screenings to return to university and student housing.

Hong Kong’s COVID-19 vaccination scheme is open to people aged 30 to 59, international students above the age of 16, and domestic helpers. These Pfizer-BioNTech and Sinovac vaccines are offered at community centres throughout the country. The priority groups include 5.5 million residents and over 80% of young people above 16.

Although widely available, vaccine uptake has been slow. Only 16% of the population received their first dose as of last week, while 11% have received both doses. Student unions have linked the low vaccination rates among the youth to a distrust of the government, according to the South China Morning Post.

Here’s a quick look at the rules being imposed by Hong Kong universities.

Hong Kong universities

People queue outside a sports centre to receive China’s Sinovac COVID-19 coronavirus vaccine in the Kowloon Bay district of Hong Kong on Feb. 26, 2021. Source: Isaac Lawrence/AFP

Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST)

HKUST wants all students and staff vaccinated. Otherwise, they have to pay for regular testing themselves — which costs 240 Hong Kong dollars at a community centre. The university has gone on record saying it would financially aid those who cannot afford regular testing. Those who are unable to get vaccinated for medical reasons must also undergo regular testing.

“In order to return to the ideals of our community and resume normal teaching and learning and other campus activities this fall, we encourage all students, faculty, staff, and contractors working on campus to get vaccinated by the fall term,” the university’s senior management members, including president Wei Shyy, confirmed in an email to SCMP.

University of Hong Kong (HKU)

At HKU, unvaccinated dormitory residents must pay to take an antigen test every week beginning August 25. A university spokeswoman communicated that all residence-based universities can only resume at maximum capacity once most residents have been vaccinated. This is because “interaction and close contact in dormitories are constant and unavoidable”.

Liberal arts university Lingnan University Hong Kong will apply a similar rule for student accommodation.

Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU)

Similar to HKUST, PolyU wants all students and staff to either get the shot or be ready for regular testing before the academic year begins in late August. Though those who cannot be vaccinated for personal medical reasons would need to be screened every seven days, they may do it for free at the Hung Hom campus health service centre.

Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK)

Chinese University was the first among Hong Kong universities to introduce a vaccination policy for students in regards to student accommodation. Students who are not vaccinated must get screened before entry, and every two weeks after that, out of their own pocket. Certain colleges may also reject dorm applications from unvaccinated students. CUHK’s provost Alan Chan said that “it becomes all the more important to expand vaccinations” before the return to in-person teaching and accommodation halls in September.

City University of Hong Kong (CityU)

While it encourages the campus community to get vaccinated, CityU has not introduced a vaccine policy at this time. Instead, a spokesperson told Times Higher Education that “the university is not a suitable place for paternalistic governance, but encourages faculty, students and staff to consider vaccinations according to their personal circumstances.”