September 27, 2022

Hong Kong removes international travel quarantine after more than 900 days

4 min read

Under the new rules, which will come into effect on September 26, incoming travelers will have to undergo three days of self-monitoring upon arrival.

Hong Kong’s government is facing considerable pressure from its business community and some public health officials to ease restrictions amid a slowing economy. Expulsion of foreigners And there are concerns that the financial hub, once known as “Asia’s global city”, has been left behind as the rest of the world moves ahead of the pandemic.

Hong Kong Chief Executive John Lee said at a much-anticipated press conference on Friday that the number of infections in the city had stabilized, prompting the lifting of the quarantine.

“We hope to give Hong Kong more room to reconnect and revive its economy,” Lee said.

Incoming travelers will be able to self-monitor for three days at their home or a place of their choice. During this time they will be able to go out but some places will be restricted.

Visitors will no longer be required to provide a negative PCR test before boarding the aircraft. However, they will need to provide a negative Rapid Antigen Test (RAT) 24 hours before boarding.

During the three-day monitoring period, people will be given an amber color under the city’s digital health code, barring them from going to places like bars or restaurants.

They will need to have a PCR test on days 2, 4 and 6 after arrival, and a RAT test every day for seven days after arrival.

The change in policy came after Japan announced it would reopen its borders from Oct. 11 and when Taiwan said it aimed to end its mandatory quarantine on Oct. 13 if the island tested its latest Omicron BA- 5 has passed the peak of the outbreak.

Questions about when the city will ease restrictions have been heightened as two major international events, the Hong Kong Sevens rugby tournament and a global banking conference, are scheduled for November as a way to revive the beleaguered city. But was seen, which has caused a stir. pro-democracy in recent years protest And to come Crackdown on civil liberties from Beijing.
Although various governments introduced border controls after the outbreak of the pandemic, most have since rolled back those measures, including Singapore, which usually competes with Hong Kong. Attract foreign business and skills.
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But unlike other global centers, Hong Kong’s Covid-19 policies have long been seen as closely aligned with mainland China, where Beijing maintains a strict stance. Zero covid policy and border quarantines, which show no signs of easing as eliminating infections remains the top priority.

Calls to loosen international border controls under Lee’s predecessor Carrie Lam, who left office on June 30, have been tempered by a competing call to open up quarantine-free travel to the mainland – a proposal that has yet to be approved. Not completed yet.

A public signal of Beijing’s support for Hong Kong’s new policy route came on September 20, when Huang Liuquan, deputy head of the Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office, said the Hong Kong government would tailor its policies to its local situation. Synchronizing and adjustments are made. No need to “explain too much”.

While the new policy for international arrivals in Hong Kong may not be the trigger for a change in mainland policy, it is indicative of the different conditions on each side of the border.

Although the city kept local cases to a minimum for the first two years of the pandemic, Hong Kong experienced one. Explosive expansion of the highly infectious Omicron variant earlier this year and has not since recovered to a zero-covid status. Instead, the city clocks in between hundreds and thousands of events per day. More than 1.7 million cases have been reported in the city of 7.4 million, according to official records, although experts believe the actual number is higher.

In mainland China, by contrast, the majority of the country has yet to be exposed to the virus — leaving its population at a disadvantage when it comes to natural immunity to infection, a concern for health officials there. Who are afraid of this virus. Widespread spread over the health care system.

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Hong Kong’s new measures come more than 900 days after the city first imposed border restrictions in March 2020 and nearly two years after it made hotel quarantine mandatory for all international visitors in December 2020. Is. At its longest, the quarantine period extended to 21 days. Travelers who tested positive during quarantine were transferred to designated facilities, including, at times, government-run camps.

The program became increasingly controversial in the public after CoVID-19 vaccines became widely available, the number of local cases increased and New Zealand and Australia opened their borders with similar systems.

A lack of available hotel rooms and limited flights this summer fueled public anger as travelers risked being stranded out of town until free rooms opened up if their itineraries were disrupted, e.g. By catching Covid-19 or rescheduling the flight.

Some restrictions have been eased in recent months. In May, non-Hong Kong residents were allowed to enter the city from overseas for the first time in more than two years, while a scheme that suspended some flights with Covid-positive passengers was scrapped in July. had gone.

Earlier this summer, Lee’s administration shortened the quarantine from a week to three days, in addition to an additional four days of health surveillance, during which visitors are banned from places including bars, gyms and restaurants. Not allowed to go.

Hotel quarantine and pre-flight screening requirements were seen as a significant barrier to travel in the city, though Questions remain as to what role the new plan will play in reviving the city’s once vibrant tourism industry.

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