Hong Kong quarantine rules ease for travelers

Hong Kong quarantine rules ease for travelers
FILE PHOTO: A woman walks past empty counters of Cathay Pacific at Hong Kong International Airport following fresh measures to control coronavirus (COVID-19) infections in Hong Kong, China January 11, 2022. REUTERS/Lam Yik

The backstory:

  • Hong Kong’s has a zero-COVID-19 policy, which has led to some of the strictest quarantine regulations in the world. One of these is a three-week quarantine for many travelers at a designated quarantine hotel.
  • There have been two notable exceptions to this rule; one is when JP Morgan Chase & Co. chief executive officer Jaime Dimon made a trip to Hong Kong and was granted an exemption to skip this. The other is when Nicole Kidman did so to film a movie. Both of these exemptions received a fair bit of criticism.
  • This approach, however, generally has received criticism from corporate executives and officials saying that it was hurting the city’s overall competitiveness.
  • From travelers scrambling to secure expensive hotel rooms amid constantly-changing rules and flights down as much as 90%, a draft report from the EuroChamber in the city said that this approach may keep the city locked up until early 2024. The report also said that it was likely to lead to a mass exodus of foreigners in the city.
  • Thursday saw 164 new infections, which is a record since the pandemic started. This is also the fifth consecutive day of cases in the triple digits.

The development:

  • On Thursday, Carrie Lam, the city’s chief executive, said she would cut the quarantine period for travelers to 14 days from 21 starting from February 5.
  • Residents coming in from more than 160 countries will now have to spend 14 days in a hotel, followed by seven days of self-monitoring. There was no mention of the specific countries that this would apply to, and more details will be announced later.
  • Lam did say that this change will likely make the business community happy and that it wasn’t a change put in place “because of pressure from anybody. It’s just because of science … that omicron has a relatively short incubation period.”
  • She also added that the city needed to raise its vaccination rates from 70% to 90% before it would consider changing the current policies in place, saying, “I cannot stand seeing a lot of people dying in my hospitals so we will try our best to raise our vaccination rate."

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