Hong Kong will lift hotel quarantine requirements for incoming travelers from next Monday, marking the end of a Covid-19 policy blamed for undermining the city’s international standing.
From September 26, inbound passengers are subject to the “0+3” arrangement, CEO John Lee said at a press conference on Friday.
Under the new arrangement, arrivals will no longer have to be isolated in designated quarantine hotels. Instead, arriving travelers can choose to undergo a three-day “medical observation” at home or in a hotel, during which time they will be allowed to leave, in accordance with PCR requirements.
A PCR test will still be required on arrival at Hong Kong International Airport, but arrivals will be able to go home or to their hotel immediately – without waiting for test results – using their preferred mode of transport, including public transport, as opposed to taking certain taxis and bus.
“It would be ‘test and go’, instead of ‘test and hold,'” said the city leader.
After receiving a negative result from that initial test, travelers will be issued with a yellow QR code on the LeaveHomeSafe contact tracing app. For three days, arrivals can leave their residences but will be barred from certain areas of the Vaccine Pass program, including restaurants and bars.
See also: Covid-19: Hong Kong issues red QR codes for confirmed cases, yellow codes for international arrivals
Passengers are expected to take four PCR tests in the first week of arrival. The tests would be done on the day they arrived, ie on day zero, and again on the second, fourth and sixth day.
Provided the PCR test result is negative on the second day, arrivals after the third day will receive a blue QR code, thus removing all restrictions imposed by the yellow code.
The government also ended the policy of requiring passengers to show a negative PCR test result 48 hours before boarding a flight to Hong Kong. Instead, they just need to show a negative result of a rapid test taken within 24 hours before the flight.
“[This policy change] would relieve travelers of their current struggle to find PCR test services abroad,” said Lee.
“Let me emphasize the SAR government’s anti-epidemic policy … which includes not ‘lying down’ to control the number of confirmed cases and ensure the capacity of the medical system,” Lee said, using a term originating in mainland China to mean work a little. as possible.
Authorities have focused on reducing Covid-related deaths and severe cases, protecting high-risk groups such as children and the elderly, and balancing risk and economic momentum, Lee added.
Hong Kong residents who are not fully vaccinated will also be allowed to return, Li announced on Friday. The group should follow existing procedures to obtain a vaccine pass. In addition, the limit on the number of people allowed to enter the city from mainland China and Macau under the Come2hk and Return2hk programs will be lifted.
The latest policy changes come after the government decided that the risk of transmission from inbound travelers is neither greater nor less than the risk of local transmission.
Lee said his administration also took into account people’s livelihoods, economic activity, Hong Kong’s competitiveness and other factors.
“In a situation where we can control the pandemic trend, [we seek to] to give Hong Kong the maximum space to connect with the world, to give the society the greatest economic momentum and reduce the inconvenience for incoming travelers. We don’t want to back down,” Hong Kong’s leader told reporters.
End of strict entry requirements
The city currently mandates a “3+4” measure, which takes effect in August, under which arrivals must spend three nights in a quarantine hotel at their own expense, followed by four nights of medical supervision at home.
In line with mainland China’s Covid-19 policy, Hong Kong has maintained – though gradually relaxed – strict pandemic measures since the virus was first reported in the city in January 2020. Border restrictions soon followed, and a quarantine was introduced in March and years.
When the city’s Covid-19 travel rules were at their strictest, arrivals had to spend 21 days in a designated hotel under quarantine.
Friday’s announcement came ahead of a major two-day financial summit in November, organized by the Hong Kong Monetary Authority, which is expected to attract senior executives from the world’s biggest banks. In July, authorities said conditional travel without quarantine could be allowed in time for the event.
Hong Kong’s strict policy on Covid-19 stands in stark contrast to the rest of the world, which has largely relaxed its rules and returned to normalcy. The city continues to enforce a four-person limit in public, make face masks mandatory outdoors, and mandate the use of a contact tracing app to enter certain rooms.
Its quarantine conditions for arrivals, in particular, have been criticized for being at odds with the city’s cherished reputation as a global financial center.
The International Air Transport Association, a trade association representing nearly 300 of the world’s airlines, said in April that Hong Kong was “really off the map”.
Business groups and tycoons called on the city to relax the measures. Earlier this month, former Hong Kong trade secretary Frederick Ma and billionaire Peter Woo, chairman of real estate giant The Wharf, called on authorities to reopen Hong Kong’s borders.
Leading University of Hong Kong microbiologist Ho Pak-leung said on a radio show last month that there was “room” for the government to lift its quarantine requirements for hotels. The risk of contracting Covid-19 from travelers and the risk of contracting it in the local community was about the same, he explained.
Ho added that even if the passengers were carrying a different strain of Covid-19, their impact on the transmission of the virus would be minimal.
In June, China’s top Hong Kong affairs office said consolidating the city’s international competitiveness was one area where the government should “take greater action”.
Additional reporting: Kelly Ho
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