Is Hong Kong ready to reopen?

Is Hong Kong ready to reopen?
Travellers arrive at the Hong Kong International Airport on the first day the COVID hotel quarantine has been scrapped, in Hong Kong, China September 26, 2022. REUTERS/Tyrone Siu

Recently, Japan said it would reopen its borders in October, and Taiwan also plans to ditch its mandatory quarantine in a couple of weeks if it’s passed the peak of its latest omicron BA.5 outbreak. Hong Kong has had a mandatory hotel quarantine for international travelers for over two years. But there’s been a lot of pressure to reopen up to tourism.

Last Friday, Hong Kong’s Chief Executive John Lee announced that infection numbers have stabilized, which means the city can remove the quarantine. And yesterday, if officially lifted the hotel quarantine for foreign travelers.

Now, arrivals have to monitor themselves for three days once they come into the city, and they’re barred from bars and restaurants. They must also take COVID tests throughout their first week in Hong Kong. Then, if they test positive, they have to self-quarantine for seven days. Already, travel companies are reporting 10 times the amount of requests coming in. With this step, the city’s businesses are calling for a clear plan to fully reopen and get Hong Kong back to normal.

Key comments:

“We hope to give the maximum room to reconnect Hong Kong, and to revitalize our economy,” Lee said on Friday.

Benjamin Cowling, chair of epidemiology at the University of Hong Kong, explained: “I suppose the World Health Organization will be reluctant to declare the pandemic is over until infections have subsided further and probably until China has transitioned away. It’s the last place which still has a lot of public health measures in place.”

“The relaxations are welcome as they represent major improvements. But we hope that the government can throw light on the last mile, i.e, under what conditions will all restrictions can be removed so that we can be on par with international financial centers?” said Sally Wong, CEO of the Hong Kong Investment Funds Association.