Hong Kong aims to scrap hotel quarantine in November: report

Hong Kong aims to scrap hotel quarantine in November, according to a Bloomberg report. Photo: Hong Kong’s Information Services Department
Hong Kong aims to scrap hotel quarantine in November, according to a Bloomberg report. Photo: Hong Kong’s Information Services Department

Hong Kong aims to scrap hotel quarantine in November, ahead of a summit of global bankers and an international rugby competition, according to a Bloomberg report citing sources familiar with the matter.

While Chief Executive John Lee is reportedly keen on such a plan, the news agency said that there is a lack of consensus within the government in the face of a resurgence of Covid-19 cases in recent weeks.

Health authorities reported 10,586 new cases and 11 new deaths on Thursday.

According to Bloomberg, Hong Kong’s leader is leaning toward ending the hotel quarantine before the summit organized by the Hong Kong Monetary Authority and the Hong Kong Sevens, which are both set to take place in November, to signal the city is back in business.

However, he is facing the objections from some in his administration, including Health Secretary Lo Chung-mau, who wants to tighten restrictions as infections surge to facilitate the resumption of quarantine-free travel with mainland China.

Still, Bloomberg quoted a source as saying that the government is more likely to scrap quarantine as many in the administration view public opinion as being in favor of such a decision. 

A final decision will depend on the daily infection count, the number of deaths and public perception, the agency quoted the person as saying.

Arrivals to Hong Kong currently have to quarantine in designated hotels for three days, followed by four days of medical surveillance at home or in hotels, during which they cannot go to high-risk areas like restaurants and care homes.

The city’s strict Covid-19 rules have triggered an exodus of expatriate workers, especially in the financial sector, raising concerns that the city is losing its global financial hub status following more than two years of closed borders.

Unlike his predecessor Carrie Lam, Lee, who took office in July, has yet to tighten social distancing measures substantively in response to the recent resurgence of cases, which could be in part due to lower fatality rates now compared with the outbreaks earlier in the year. 

On Thursday, he also announced that he has gained the support of mainland authorities for a “reverse quarantine” plan, which would see those traveling from Hong Kong to the mainland first quarantine in Hong Kong before heading to Shenzhen in a closed-loop manner. 

But the government is cautious of sending out a message that the city is taking a “living with Covid” approach.

In response to media inquiries, a spokesman for the Chief Executive’s Office released a statement late on Thursday saying authorities will not take a “lie flat” approach and will continue to contain the number of confirmed cases.

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