The government announced that flight bans will be suspended, starting from today, July 7. Flights that are currently banned for bringing passengers who test positive for Covid-19 upon arrival into the city may resume services from today. In a press release, the government also announced that international arrivals undergoing hotel quarantine will have to take an additional PCR test on Day 3 of their hotel isolation period.
Recently, there have been several calls for the government to reduce restrictions on passengers arriving into the SAR, especially regarding the seven-day mandatory hotel quarantine period and route-specific flight bans (also known as the flight suspension mechanism). Hong Kong’s new Chief Executive, John Lee Ka-chiu, recently said that the authorities were trying to strike a balance between reducing restrictions on travellers and curbing the spread of the virus.
According to the press release, the flight ban is scrapped because “the social costs incurred by the flight suspension mechanism would be quite significant”, referring to the difficulties travellers to Hong Kong face when rebooking rooms in DQHs, especially during the peak travel period of July and August when overseas students return to the city for summer vacations. Authorities also stated that the ban is “not very cost-effective in avoiding the importation of cases” as the majority can be detected via the PCR tests travellers undergo at the airport and Designated Quarantine Hotels (DQHs).
International travellers staying at DQHs will also have to undergo an additional PCR test on Day 3 after their arrival into Hong Kong to “help identify infected persons sooner to prevent imported cases from spreading into the community”.
Previously, airlines were given a five-day ban on flights that brought in five or more passengers or 5% or more of the total number of passengers on the same flight (whichever is higher) who tested positive for the virus upon arrival. The ban was also triggered if three or more passengers tested positive for Covid-19 upon arrival and one or more passengers did not have the correct documentation to enter the SAR.
In addition, once inbound passengers enter Hong Kong, they have to undergo a PCR and rapid antigen test (RAT) at the airport. They must also take PCR tests on Days 5, 7, 9 and 12, as well as daily RATs while they are under quarantine.
Header image credits: Kwong Ho Eddie Wong via Flickr