While Hong Kong is one of the few regions left not living with COVID, this year, big steps have been made to reopen the city. This includes allowing inbound travelers to enter the finance hub without hotel quarantine. Now, according to health officials, with the number of daily infections stabilized, public hospitals returning to full service, among other reasons, Hong Kong can roll these curbs back even more.
On Thursday morning, rumors circulated, with local media reporting that the city might drop its outdoor mask rule and shift to rapid testing for inbound travelers. Later in the afternoon, the government announced that the quarantine isolation period for those with COVID and close contacts would be cut to five days from seven days. On top of this, arrivals to the city will only need daily rapid tests for five days.
As for indoor mask-wearing and using the Leave Home Safe tracking app, the city said that those measures will remain firmly in place until December 28.
"For the mask mandate, at the current moment, it is not a consideration [for the government] to remove it. We will still have the mask mandate until the control of the pandemic or control of the disease is much better," said the Undersecretary for Health, Libby Lee Ha-yun, in November when announcing the relaxation on COVID curbs.
"The economy is not doing well at all fronts …. Investment sentiment remains weak due to rate hikes and the gloomy economic outlook," said DBS Bank's economist Samuel Tse.
"The next checkpoint will be Chinese New Year; I think markets are looking for further relaxation to facilitate return to their hometowns by Chinese New Year," said Ken Cheung, Chief Asian FX Strategist at Mizuho in Hong Kong on China's latest COVID easing announcement.