Hong Kong removes controversial COVID travel regulation

Hong Kong removes controversial COVID travel regulation
FILE PHOTO: Travellers wearing face masks queue at the check-in counters of the Hong Kong International Airport amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic in Hong Kong, China, March 21, 2022. REUTERS/Tyrone Siu

Hong Kong had a circuit breaker mechanism that essentially banned individual flights if they carried someone with COVID on the plane because it caused the city too much “unnecessary trouble." This year, 100 flights have been banned, and the measure is one of the city’s most controversial, often leading to chaos for travelers.

Now the recently sworn-in Lee government has announced that starting Thursday, it will remove this mechanism and increase testing instead, which officials said would be more effective at catching COVID cases than a flight ban. Including the pre-departure test, travelers will need to take six PCR tests across two weeks.

Key comments:

The Government announced today (July 7) that, after a preliminary review of data and scientific analysis, it is believed that continuous strengthening of more frequent nucleic acid testing for people arriving in Hong Kong will more effectively block imported cases. Therefore, the decision will be made from today (July 7) onwards. Suspend the ‘circuit breaker mechanism’ of individual routes until further notice," said the government statement.

“Breaking – Great news! Hong Kong CE John Lee’s first step to ease travel restrictions. More relaxation to come!" wrote Regina Ip, member of the Hong Kong Executive & Legislative Council, in response to the announcement on Twitter.