Hong Kong will shorten its 21-day quarantine requirement for incoming travellers to two weeks from February 5 given the much shorter incubation period of the Omicron variant, the city’s leader has announced.
Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, confirming an earlier Post report on the quarantine move, also said on Thursday existing social-distancing curbs would remain in place for another two weeks until February 17. In-person school classes will remain suspended for two more weeks until February 21.
Do you have questions about the biggest topics and trends from around the world? Get the answers with SCMP Knowledge, our new platform of curated content with explainers, FAQs, analyses and infographics brought to you by our award-winning team.
The city’s daily Covid-19 caseload soared to 164 on Thursday, the most recorded in a single day since the pandemic began in January 2020.
“There are many invisible transmission links in the community, and we have raced to cut down these links,” Lam said. “That’s why we have resorted to quick and tough measures.”
The decision to shorten the quarantine period came after persistent complaints from travellers and companies paying high quarantine costs for employees.
Currently, Hong Kong residents returning from 147 countries or places deemed high-risk are subject to 21 days of quarantine at designated hotels. Those arriving from 15 countries must isolate at the Penny’s Bay quarantine facility for four days before completing the rest of their quarantine at a hotel. Unvaccinated residents returning from medium-risk countries are also subject to the same.
The isolation periods for vaccinated travellers from medium- and low-risk countries are 14 and seven days respectively. But currently nowhere overseas is deemed low-risk by the Hong Kong government.
Last June when the pandemic situation had stabilised, the quarantine period for high-risk countries was cut to 14 days for travellers who could produce a positive antibody test.
Flights from eight major countries, comprising Australia, Canada, France, India, Pakistan, the Philippines, Britain and the United States have been banned since the start of the fifth wave of infections, to prevent more imported cases from slipping into the community. The ban will be extended for another two weeks to February 18.
Earlier this month, Hong Kong cut the quarantine period of Covid-19 patients’ close contacts from the previous 21 days to 14, citing reasons of pressure on the city’s quarantine facilities and the shorter incubation period of people carrying the Omicron variant.
More from South China Morning Post:
- Omicron: fresh cases at locked-down Hong Kong housing estate raises fears of cross-infection
- Omicron: Complaints mount from Hong Kong residents at locked-down blocks in public housing estate, amid cross-infection fears