Inbound passengers line to undergo rapid antigen tests for COVID-19 under the "test-and-hold" arrangement at Hong Kong International Airport, April 1, 2022. (CALVIN NG/CHINA DAILY)
Hong Kong on Friday announced an array of facilitation measures, including lifting its COVID-19 hotel quarantine policy for all arrivals from Monday and replacing the nucleic acid test requirement for travelers boarding planes leaving for Hong Kong with a rapid antigen test, in a bid to revive the economy and reconnect to the world.
From Monday, overseas and Taiwan visitors are only required to undergo a three-day medical surveillance at home or at a hotel upon their arrival in Hong Kong, the city’s Chief Executive John Lee Ka-chiu announced at a news conference on Friday
From Monday, overseas and Taiwan visitors are only required to undergo a three-day medical surveillance at home or at a hotel upon their arrival in Hong Kong, the city’s Chief Executive John Lee Ka-chiu announced at a news conference on Friday. The arrivals will be allowed to go to work or school but are forbidden from entering bars or restaurants during their three-day medical surveillance. They will have access to these services after they get a negative nucleic acid test result on the third day following their arrival.
Lee said he hopes the relaxation of the quarantine requirement will increase Hong Kong’s exchanges with the international community, provide an impetus to the local economy, and enhance the city’s competitiveness.
Lee reiterated that Hong Kong remains attractive as it has many advantages, such as good infrastructure, low tax rates and its role as a connector between the Chinese mainland and the world.
Currently, all overseas and Taiwan arrivals need to spend three days in a self-paid hotel, followed by four days of self-monitoring.
Before boarding a plane for Hong Kong, inbound passengers will need to present a negative rapid antigen test result instead of a nucleic acid test result as previously required, Lee said. Unvaccinated overseas Hong Kong residents will be allowed to enter the city, he added.
In addition, the Come2hk and the Return2hk schemes, which respectively allow Guangdong residents and Hong Kong residents who live in the adjacent province to enter the city without quarantine, will be expanded to the whole Chinese mainland and Macao with no quota limit.
Secretary of Health Lo Chungmau pointed out that under the new arrangement, after completing the three-day medical surveillance, visitors should conduct self-monitoring for another four days, and take nucleic acid tests on the day of their arrival, the second, the fourth and the sixth day.
Lo said adjustments to the quarantine arrangement are based on facts that imported cases continue to decline and that no violation of the current quarantine policy has occurred so far.
Welcoming the initiatives, lawmaker Tan Yueheng, who is also the chairman and executive director of BOCOM International Holdings Co, said the moves will reduce the inconvenience for inbound passengers and help revive the local economy by facilitating Hong Kong’s connection with the international community.
Tan stressed the need to closely monitor the health condition of high-risk groups, such as the elderly and children, and increase channels to facilitate their vaccination.
Yet, Chow Pak-chin, a renowned ophthalmologist and president of think tank Wisdom Hong Kong, cautioned that it might increase the transmission risk if unvaccinated residents are allowed to return to the city. Replacing nucleic acid tests with rapid antigen tests will also reduce the effectiveness of pandemic prevention to a certain extent, Chow said.
The latest arrangement is regarded as a “long-awaited move” by many residents and the business sector. This means that for the first time in two and a half years, most people from overseas and Taiwan will be allowed to visit the global financial center without quarantine.
Previously, quarantine had been set at two to three weeks before being gradually eased this year.
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