Hong Kong’s leader announced the city would no longer require incoming travelers to quarantine in designated hotels as it seeks to remain competitive and open up globally after nearly two years.
Incoming travelers will also no longer need a negative PCR test within 48 hours before boarding a plane to Hong Kong, the city’s chief executive John Lee said Friday at a news conference. Instead, they will need to present a negative COVID-19 result from a rapid antigen test conducted within 24 hours before the flight.
The measures came into effect on Monday, September 25.
“While we can’t control the trend of the epidemic, we must allow the maximum room to allow connectivity with the world so that we can have economic momentum and to reduce inconvenience to arriving travelers,” said Lee, who also said that authorities will not roll back the measures announced Friday.
He said that there must be a “balance between risks and economic growth.”
Home monitoring rule replaces hotel quarantine
Effective September 25, travelers into Hong Kong will have to undergo three days of home monitoring. If they test negative for COVID-19 after three days, they will be allowed into venues such as restaurants and bars. They must also undergo several mandatory PCR tests, including one on arrival, as well as on their second, fourth, and sixth days in Hong Kong, coupled with daily antigen rapid tests every day for their first week.
Hong Kong’s easing of travel curbs sparked a rush for flight bookings, with airline Cathay Pacific’s website “experiencing high traffic” after the announcement was made. Visitors to the site had to wait in a virtual queue to enter.
The city’s daily COVID-19 infections have fallen to below 6,000 cases a day, from over 10,000 daily cases early this month. A large majority are local infections.
For nearly two years, Hong Kong required overseas arrivals in the city to serve a period of mandatory quarantine in designated hotels. At one point, the city had among the world’s longest quarantine periods at 21 days of mandatory isolation.
As the rest of the world reopened borders, businesses urged Hong Kong authorities to come up with an exit strategy to the pandemic in order to remain competitive amid a brain drain as tens of thousands of residents left the city.
Several companies also moved their offices to countries like Singapore as they sought relief from the city’s restrictions.
Singapore had eased travel curbs and relaxed coronavirus restrictions months before Hong Kong, sparking concerns that Hong Kong may lose out in competitiveness as an international financial center and regional business hub.
Lee said authorities will keep monitoring the epidemic situation in Hong Kong to determine if further relaxation is possible, adding he was “optimistic” that the loosening of requirements will be welcomed by those who wish to enter Hong Kong.
“If there are positive developments as we progress . . . there will be more room for us to do extra measures so that we can have more movement, more activities and more room for us to go about different [activities],” he said.
Taiwan expected to drop hotel quarantine in October
Taiwan is considering an end to its quarantine requirement for all arrivals in mid-October, the Central Epidemic Command Center said last week.
The island has been one of the few places in the world that has held on to a quarantine for all arrivals throughout the course of the pandemic. In recent months, it has steadily reduced the previously two-week-long quarantine.
Officials with the CECC in charge of the pandemic response announced they were planning to end quarantine and change it to seven days of self-health monitoring. But the change is dependent on the pandemic situation in Taiwan over the next week.
The expected date for the end of quarantine is October 13.
Taiwan announced that starting September 12, citizens from Canada, the U.S., and countries in Europe that previously had visa-free arrival could once again visit Taiwan without visas.
Under the new scheme, arrivals are still required to stay in a place that has one separate bathroom per person and will be provided rapid tests upon arrival.
Currently, arrivals are allowed to quarantine at home and have to do so for three days starting after the day they arrive. They must then follow up with four days of self-health management, which means they should continue to monitor their temperature and not go to restaurants.
Once Taiwan lifts its quarantine requirement, mainland China will be one of the only places in the world that will still require travelers to quarantine on arrival.