Hong Kong cuts down COVID quarantine to 3 days for arrivals

Hong Kong cuts down COVID quarantine to 3 days for arrivals
FILE PHOTO: Travellers queue up for shuttle bus to quarantine hotels at the Hong Kong International Airport, amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, in Hong Kong, China, August 1, 2022. REUTERS/Tyrone Siu

Along with mainland China, Hong Kong is one of the few places still requiring a COVID quarantine for new arrivals. At one point, Hong Kong had a 21-day quarantine period. But, the strict rules really hurt the city’s economy, leading to an exodus of expats and rising pressure from the business community.

Yesterday, authorities announced the mandatory hotel quarantine for travelers would be cut down from seven days to three days starting August 12. After three days, the individual’s health will be monitored for another four days. During these four days, travelers will have loosely restricted movement based on the health code system, only unable to enter high-risk places. They’ll also have to regularly test for COVID and must stay in isolation if positive. This is the shortest quarantine that Hong Kong has had since the beginning of the pandemic. While this move is welcomed by Hong Kong’s business owners and economic analysts, some think authorities should go even further and that Hong Kong won’t financially recover until there’s no travel quarantine at all.

Key comments:

“What we have recommended now – the three days (of) quarantine in designated hotels – is after examining the scientific evidence and the data, which gives us the indication that the risk factor of people having finished three days’ quarantine in designated hotels, (is that their) risk level is actually no more than the risk level of (COVID-19) transmission in society,” said Hong Kong leader John Lee.

“We are asking the government to urgently provide a clear roadmap showing the complete removal of all COVID-related restrictions for aircrew and passengers as soon as is feasible to protect Hong Kong’s international aviation hub status,” said a statement from Cathay Pacific Airways, Hong Kong’s biggest airline.

“For Hong Kong to be back on the map for stakeholders from abroad requires them to be able to come and leave as they would nearly everywhere else – that is without quarantine, tests on arrival or the worry that they may be sent to an isolation center if they should contract COVID while they’re here,” said Johannes Hack, president of the German Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong.

“It is unlikely that Hong Kong will lift all health measures and travel restrictions by the end of 2022,” S&P Global said.