People arriving to Hong Kong from overseas will only need to quarantine in hotels for three days starting Friday, the government said on Monday. Officials say easing the city’s strict travel restrictions will help it regain its international competitiveness while still keeping the virus in check.
Speaking at a press conference, Chief Executive John Lee announced that the mandatory Covid-19 quarantine period in designated hotels will be reduced from the current seven days to three days.
But inbound travelers will still need to undergo medical surveillance at home or in hotels for four more days after the quarantine, during which they will have limited access to public venues as governed by a traffic light-style health code akin to the one used in mainland China.
Officials explained that the move is aimed at maintaining residents’ economic livelihoods and regaining Hong Kong’s international competitiveness.
“While we can control the threat to our public health, we want also to ensure that the society can have the maximum degree of economic and social activities so that the society can go about as normal as possible and the competitiveness of Hong Kong can be maintained,” Lee said.
Officials said inbound travelers who receive a negative PCR test result can leave the hotel as early as 9am on the fourth day of arrival.
They will also get an amber code on the LeaveHomeSafe contact tracing app.
Amber means they can then go to work and into places like shopping centers and wet markets, as well as public transport, but not venues that require visitors to actively present their vaccine pass for checking such as restaurants, bars and gyms.
Those with an amber code will also be barred from entering residential homes for the elderly and disabled, schools and specific medical facilities as visitors, as well as taking part in activities that require masks to be taken off.
After the surveillance period is over, the amber code will be automatically changed into a blue one on the LeaveHomeSafe app.
Authorities added that those who have already booked a designated hotel for quarantine for seven days can get a refund from the hotel for the last four days.
If arrivals test positive for the coronavirus, they will get a red code, meaning they have to stay in the place where they are isolating.
Secretary for Health Lo Chung-mau said the decision to relax the quarantine measures is based on official data, which show that around 4 percent of inbound travelers have been diagnosed with Covid-19, with about half detected during PCR tests at the airport.
The accumulated number of infections detected goes up to 80 percent of all cases by the third day, meaning fewer than 1 percent of arrivals test positive for the virus after the third day.
With the new quarantine arrangement, inbound travelers will need to undergo PCR tests on the first, third, fifth, seventh and 10th day of their arrival at the airport, hotels or testing centers.
They also need to undergo daily rapid antigen tests (RAT) until the 11th day.