Hong Kong will further tighten Covid-19 travel restrictions in an effort to convince Beijing to sanction quarantine-free cross-border travel between the SAR and the mainland, Chief Executive Carrie Lam said at a meeting on Tuesday.
The new development, which comes after discussions with mainland Chinese health experts, will involve most quarantine exemptions being scrapped, except for people in groups that are deemed essential in providing emergency services or maintaining the territory’s daily operations. The latest measures are said to bring Hong Kong’s anti-epidemic policies more in line with Beijing’s.
Additionally, starting from October 27th, discharge conditions will be tightened for recovered Covid-19 patients. These include being allowed to leave hospital only after testing negative twice, and then being sent to North Lantau Hospital Hong Kong Infection Control Centre for another 14 days of isolation.
This move is in line with Lam’s stance on prioritising reopening with the mainland over international travel, despite the city recording only one local case in the past two months.
Hong Kong currently has one of the most stringent quarantine requirements in the world. Most arrivals must undergo mandatory hotel quarantine for 14-21 days, and even those entitled to exemptions need to get tested for Covid-19 several times after arriving in the city.
Currently, Hong Kong allows people under 48 categories from the mainland and overseas, such as businessmen and diplomats, to skip quarantine or isolate at home.
Some previously granted exemptions have sparked public outrage. Most notably, when American-born Australian actress Nicole Kidman was allowed to skip quarantine to film a TV series in Hong Kong, and when coronavirus cases emerged in the family of a Saudi Arabian diplomat whose family was permitted to self-isolate at their Taikoo Shing home.