Covid: Hong Kong ends hotel quarantine for travellers

It has been one of the strictest – and longest lasting - Covid travel policies in the world.

Now Hong Kong has finally put an end to its mandatory hotel quarantine for travellers.

From Monday, those entering the country will only have to undergo three days of at-home medical surveillance, including mandatory PCR tests on days four and six after they arrive. If they test positive, they will either be isolated at home, in hotels, or in community facilities, depending on the situation.

However, travellers are no longer required to take a PCR test before boarding flights to Hong Kong and, upon arrival, they can head directly to their home or hotel to await the test results. During the three-day period, they will be issued with a yellow code that limits their movements and they will not be allowed to eat in at restaurants.

A man is directed to a waiting taxi at Hong Kong International Airport that will take him to hotel quarantine. Hong Kong announced on Friday it will end mandatory hotel quarantine from Monday.

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There are around 1,500 Scots living in Hong Kong, which was previously a British territory before being handed back to China in 1997 – and still has strong business links to the UK.

The announcement by authorities saw people flock to the website of Hong Kong’s flag carrier Cathay Pacific, which reported a wait time of four minutes for users. Countries, including Japan, have said they expect to welcome an increase in visitors from Hong Kong.

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Hong Kong’s chief executive John Lee Ka-chiu said: “Our considerations are based on data analysis of the pandemic. We have also considered factors, including people’s livelihoods, economic activities, Hong Kong’s competitiveness and ease of entry.”

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He added: “Under the circumstances that we can put the pandemic under control, we will give Hong Kong the greatest space to connect with the world, give society the greatest economic impetus, reduce inconvenience for those who come to Hong Kong and not retrace our steps.”

The authorities have come under increased pressure to relax restrictions from the business and tourism community, who say the economy has been battered by the stringent rules.

Pang Yiu-kai, chairman of the Hong Kong Tourism Board, has welcomed the government’s move.

“The new arrangements mark Hong Kong’s reopening as a tourism gateway with significant international connections,” he said. “This is expected to initially attract mainly business travellers, family visitors and returning Hong Kong residents.”

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Unvaccinated Hong Kong residents will also be allowed to return to the city. However, they will still be subject to some restrictions without a vaccine pass.

The announcement comes as an advert, released by Hong Kong's Education Bureau, which shows two school girls playing the flute while double masked, sparked ridicule on social media for the territory’s strict Covid policies. It has this week announced a further extension in Covid restrictions, including mandatory masking.

The video, titled "Young China Says", shows schoolchildren from 41 high schools performing a variety of artistic activities, including singing, calligraphy, martial arts and musical performances. However, at one point, the video shows two girls playing flutes, both wearing masks, with a second mask that appears to have a flap that covers the mouthpiece of the instrument.

China has adopted a strict zero-Covid policy, implementing stringent lockdowns and mass testing at short notice. Almost all border crossings with mainland China remain closed indefinitely.

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