Hong Kong to scrap COVID-19 hotel quarantine from Sep 26

HONG KONG: Hong Kong will end mandatory hotel quarantine for international arrivals from Monday (Sep 26), the city leader said on Friday, ending some of the world’s toughest travel curbs that have battered the economy and kept the finance hub globally isolated for the past two and a half years.

The current three days of hotel quarantine will be reduced to zero for those arriving into Hong Kong from overseas and Taiwan, AFP reported. 

Travellers will be subject to polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests on arrival and will be unable to visit restaurants and bars for the first three days under a system authorities have dubbed “0+3”.

All international arrivals will be able to return home or to accommodation of their choice, but will have to self-monitor for three days after entering Hong Kong, said Reuters. They will also be allowed to go to work or school. 

A pre-flight PCR test which was required for travellers to Hong Kong 48 hours before flying will be replaced by a Rapid Antigen Test.

The long-awaited move will bring relief to residents and businesses who have been clamouring for the Asian business hub to rejoin the rest of the world in resuming unhindered travel and living alongside the coronavirus.

For the past two and a half years, Hong Kong has adhered to a version of China’s strict zero-COVID rules, deepening a brain drain as rival business hubs reopen.

The announcement leaves mainland China as the only major economy still hewing to lengthy quarantine for international arrivals.

Earlier this week, Hong Kong chief executive John Lee said he was conscious that the city needed to retain its competitiveness, and that authorities were keen to bring back events and activities to the city.

“We know exactly where we should be heading and want to be consistent as we move in that direction. We would like to have an orderly opening-up … because we don’t want to have chaos or confusion in the process,” he told reporters then.

Hong Kong’s government had also announced on Tuesday that it would maintain current social distancing measures until Oct 5. 

“The epidemic has stabilised and has begun to show a downward trend. The pressure on the public medical system has eased slightly. Now is a critical moment to further stabilise and control the epidemic.

“As such, the government has decided to continue the current social distancing measures for another 14-day cycle,” it said in a statement.

Hong Kong residents are required to wear masks in vehicles and at specified public places, and public gatherings of more than four people. These requirements remain unchanged.

People aged 12 and above also need to show proof of vaccination to enter restaurants, malls, supermarkets and sports facilities in Hong Kong. 

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