Good news! Hong Kong officials and Secretary for Food and Health, Sophia Chan, announced that city-wide pandemic restrictions would be eased from April 1st.
With very few local infections and a vaccination programme underway, public beaches and swimming pools will reopen, quarantine stays will be reduced for three “safe” countries and various other measures have been announced.
Ease of restrictions before the Easter break
The long-awaited easing of social distancing in Hong Kong will start with deliberation and caution on Thursday, 1 April.
For residents that appreciate the water activities, the public beaches and swimming pools will reopen.
Religious ceremonies can recommence with a maximum capacity of 30%, while theme parks, performance venues, theatres and cinema’s will increase their occupancy levels from 50% to 75%. The government are cautious with their offerings as bars, karaoke parlours and bathhouses will remain closed for the time being.
Residents will continue to practice social distancing to contain the pandemic and ensure that previous efforts are not nullified. As one of the most densely populated cities globally, it has a comparably low infection rate due to the successes in containing the virus.
Food and Health Secretary Sophia Chan said: “The fourth wave has lasted for about four months and recently started to be brought under control. The gains are hard-won, and we must not squander our hard work and effort”.
Travel bubbles and “Return2HK” programme
The government is looking at ways to expand the Return2HK programme for residents returning to Hong Kong from all mainland China airports, if tested negatively for COVID-19, 72-hours before entry. Currently, quarantine is not required if residents travel from Guangdong and Macau only. Officials are also relaunching efforts to reinstate talks and consider “travel bubble” quarantine-free partnerships with various countries, including Singapore, Japan, South Korea, Australia, New Zealand, Thailand and Vietnam.
Residents stranded in the United Kingdom can return to Hong Kong from the second half of April.
Travellers, who have been vaccinated, from low-risk countries such as Australia, New Zealand and Singapore will also be able to enter the city. Compulsory quarantine stays will be reduced by a third from these low-risk countries and only require 14-day quarantine. In addition, they will need seven-days of self-observation, this includes non-residents of Hong Kong. For a year now, borders have closed for non-residents and this announcement sounds like a hope for many travel lovers!
Ms. Chan agrees with pandemic advisors, “We have no conditions to relax all social-distancing restrictions,” she said, “most restrictions such as the closure of bars, karaoke lounges and mahjong parlours would continue for another two weeks until 14 April”.
Whilst we can expect more announcements, your Easter break will be more enjoyable with the ease of restrictions and access to Hong Kong’s beautiful beaches.