At Hong Kong’s daily Covid briefing on Monday, Chief Executive Carrie Lam announced that flights from Australia, Canada, France, India, Nepal, Pakistan, Philippines, UK, and US, will no longer be banned starting April 1. In announcing the abolition of the nine-country flight ban, Lam cited the fact that incoming travellers haven’t been exhibiting serious symptoms and the difficulties faced by residents stranded overseas.
Since January 8, all travellers from these nine places, including residents, have been barred from entering the city due to high numbers of Omicron cases overseas.
Furthermore, quarantine for incoming travellers will be reduced to 7 days. A summary of the new quarantine rules, which will more closely match those of local positive cases and close contacts, is as follows:
- Travellers will need to conduct a daily rapid antigen test in hotel quarantine (test kits will be provided at the airport)
- PCR tests will be conducted on days five and 12 of quarantine
- If travellers test negative with a PCR test on day 5 and RATs on days 6 and 7, they can go home
- Proof of a minimum 7-day hotel quarantine booking is required for entry
- Leaving the quarantine hotel after seven days must be followed by seven days of self-monitoring at home and PCR testing at a community testing centre on day 12
- If travellers test negative on days five to seven but choose to stay at the hotel for longer, they can go home if they test negative with the day 12 PCR test
- Countries will no longer be categorized as Group A, B, C according to risk level (i.e. the same rules will apply to all overseas places)
- Relaxation will be implemented in three stages: in first stage, only vaccinated Hong Kong residents can enter
Social distancing rules will be loosened in stages
Referring to relaxation of other social distancing measures, called the most strict since the beginning of the pandemic, the CE stated that if the downward trajectory in daily cases continues, measures will be slowly loosened starting April 21.
This relaxation will occur in three phases over three months. In the first phase:
- Certain premises under Cap. 599F such as sporting venues, museums, and libraries will gradually reopen
- Gathering restriction will be relaxed to four people instead of two
- Dining in at restaurants may be allowed until 10pm
In the second phase:
- All remaining scheduled premises that haven’t reopened yet, including bars and clubs, will reopen
- Beaches will reopen
- Group gatherings of eight will be allowed
- Dining in at restaurants may be allowed until 12am
- Mask-wearing will not be required during exercise
In the last phase:
- Most pandemic measures will be relaxed except for basic rules such as mask-wearing, the vaccine pass, and usage of the LeaveHomeSafe app.
Universal testing plan put on hold
Lam also announced that, after assessing the manpower that would be required for the government’s Compulsory Universal Testing plan, the scheduled universal screening will be put on hold.
Lam cited mainland and local officials suggesting that universal testing would be more useful at the very beginning of the pandemic or near the end of an outbreak. She went on to say that in mainland China, public organization for something like large-scale testing would be easier, and that it’s not appropriate to use Hong Kong’s resources for universal testing right now.
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