On March 27, the Hong Kong government announced a slew of changes in its boarding and quarantine requirements for international arrivals in the city. The biggest development was the change in criteria for the route-specific flight suspension mechanism.
Flight suspension mechanism streamlined
First, there was a change in the criteria for suspending flights that bring a certain number of passengers who test positive for Covid-19 into Hong Kong. Starting April 1, incoming flights with three or more Covid-positive travellers will be barred from landing in the city for seven days.
The ban will also be triggered if at least one passenger tests positive for the virus upon arrival and one or more passengers do not have the correct documentation to enter the SAR.
Lam said that “there is no room for major relaxation” of the route-specific flight suspension mechanism as the government wants to continue curbing the number of imported Covid-19 cases. Instead, she said there will a “streamlining of the existing arrangements.”
Currently, flight routes get suspended for 14 days if four or more passengers on the same flight route test positive for the virus on arrival within a seven-day period. It is also triggered if a single flight carries three or more positive passengers upon arrival.
The change comes after calls to scrap the flight suspension mechanism – which saw flights from Australia, Canada, France, India, Nepal, Pakistan, the Philippines, the UK, and the US banned since January – following Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor’s announcement that the flight ban will be lifted and that international arrivals may undergo a seven-day mandatory quarantine period starting April 1, halved from 14 days.
Isolation facilities converted back to quarantine hotels
There have also been concerns about the lack of designated quarantine hotels (DQHs) in the city, given that Hong Kong residents who up until now have been stranded abroad will want to return to the city once the new seven-day hotel quarantine comes into effect.
In response, the government announced on March 26 that 13 DQHs that were previously converted into Community Isolation Facilities for housing local Covid-19 cases will now return to operating as DQHs for incoming travellers.
Quarantine measures adjusted for passengers arriving before April 1
Passengers who arrived in Hong Kong before April 1 can get their 14-day quarantine period shortened if they meet certain criteria.
First, they must first produce negative PCR test and rapid antigen test results depending on what day of quarantine they’re doing. Second, they must have completed at least seven days of quarantine. Third, after they leave the DQH, they must self-monitor until Day 14 after their arrival in Hong Kong and undergo a compulsory PCR test on Day 12.
If travellers satisfy these conditions, they are free to leave the DQH earlier than the 14 days stated in their quarantine order.