HK approves plan to ease city’s strict travel quarantine

Travellers entering Hong Kong currently need to quarantine in a hotel for up to 21 days, even if they're fully vaccinated. - AFP

HONG KONG (Bloomberg): Hong Kong will shorten hotel quarantine for fully vaccinated travellers from most places to seven days as long as they pass an antibody test, people familiar with the matter said, easing a border policy which has been criticized by residents and the city’s powerful finance industry for being among the strictest in the world.

Authorities are now trialling various antibody tests -- which are meant to confirm that a person has been vaccinated or has recovered from Covid-19 -- like those that require a prick of the finger, said the people, who asked not to be identified as they’re not authorised to speak publicly.

There’s been no decision on when the policy will take effect as it depends on when the testing facilities are ready, the people said. Those coming from "high-risk” locations where outbreaks are uncontrolled won’t be included in the plan, said one of the people.

Places like the UK, US and Japan are currently designated "high risk, ” while six nations including India are judged "extremely high risk,” with travel banned from these locations. The list is updated regularly.

Travelers entering Hong Kong currently need to quarantine in a hotel for up to 21 days, even if they’re fully vaccinated.

Shortening that for some would be the city’s most significant move yet to ease the stringent restrictions that have threatened its status as a financial hub as major western economies open up and vaccination pulls ahead in regional rival Singapore.

Like a handful of other "Covid havens” that have largely eliminated local transmission of the virus, Hong Kong has been struggling to find a path to reopen as the rules that allowed it to stamp out Covid-19 increasingly become a straitjacket.

The easing was first recommended by a government advisory panel earlier this month. The city’s Food and Health Bureau didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

The current, 21-day rule has been a growing source of public anger. Travellers have to book their own hotel rooms, and they’re being reserved quickly over the summer period. The new rule will benefit fully vaccinated, Covid-negative travellers coming from "low-risk” countries like Australia and New Zealand.

In Hong Kong, fully vaccinated people are also required to serve quarantine in government facilities if they come into close contact with infected people, even if they’ve tested negative for the virus. With vaccine uptake slow amid widespread distrust of the Beijing-backed government, calls have grown for the strict rules to be relaxed for inoculated people in order to boost rates.

According to Bloomberg’s vaccine tracker, 24.2% of people in Hong Kong have received a first dose, compared to 47.3% in Singapore and 53.8% in London -- despite an consistent supply of vaccine in the former British colony.

Last month, the government said that senior executives of listed companies and major financial industry companies could apply to travel into Hong Kong without serving quarantine, a policy that incited backlash for being elitist. That plan has been postponed and no applications have yet been approved, Bloomberg reported this week.

Chief Executive Carrie Lam said on Tuesday when asked about the panel’s recommendation to shorten quarantine for vaccinated travellers that "we have no objection in principle, but there is still a lot of work to follow up -- how to meet the public health requirements without causing great inconvenience to visitors or colleagues in charge for taking blood samples for antibody tests.”

Article type: metered
User Type: anonymous web
User Status:
Campaign ID: 46
Cxense type: free
User access status: 3
Join our Telegram channel to get our Evening Alerts and breaking news highlights

Hong Kong , quarantine , covid-19 , travel


Next In Aseanplus News

Vietnam to halve quarantine time for fully vaccinated visitors
Over 30 per cent in Brunei vaccinated against Covid-19
Japan debates hospitalising only the sickest Covid-19 patients as infection records shattered again
Cambodia reiterates support for elevation of Asean-China ties to comprehensive strategic partnership
AirAsia Philippines to roll out vaccine passport app
Singapore ranked joint 4th best economy for how fast start-ups become unicorns
Thai fruit exports soar in first half of 2021
China asks Asean Plus Three to maintain stability in East Asia
Asean, Australian foreign ministers meet with pandemic and South China Sea in mind
Cambodia has one of highest percentages of Covid-19 vaccination in region: UN

Stories You'll Enjoy