Hong Kong’s new Secretary for Health, Lo Chung-mau, has said that quarantine-free travel into the city is a possibility by November 2022. Speaking to the South China Morning Post, Lo added that he favours a local health code and increased PCR testing to prevent the SAR from reverting to stricter anti-epidemic measures.
The Secretary said that quarantine measures may be removed in time for a global bankers summit on November 1 and 2 that will be organised by the Hong Kong Monetary Authority. However, entry will not be restriction-free and may include the introduction of a colour-coded health system to prevent international arrivals from going to places where the risk of transmitting the virus is higher.
“Does quarantine have to be confined to a fixed location? … Could it be medical surveillance, plus a yellow code and not appearing in a bar for the first few days? I won’t rule that out. I very much hope to achieve that as well because I like to travel too,” Lo told SCMP, adding that the government will also increase PCR testing.
There have been frequent calls for Hong Kong to scrap all quarantine restrictions and flight bans over the past few months, which the previous government said would be counterproductive to the city’s dynamic zero Covid-19 policy. Lo said, “Hong Kong can never do absolute zero, we have to find our own zero, whether it is Celsius, Fahrenheit or absolute,” adding that removing restrictions altogether would compromise public health.
Recently, the five-day flight ban on flights that bring in Covid-positive passengers on specific routes was suspended. Lo also said that authorities are considering “changing some of the designated hotel quarantine into home quarantine or home health monitoring”. Currently, there is a minimum seven-day hotel quarantine requirement for all overseas arrivals.
The decision about how international arrivals will split their quarantine between a Designated Quarantine Hotel (DQH) and their homes will depend on the data from the recently introduced Day 3 PCR test they must undergo. This is in addition to the PCR tests they must take on Days 1, 5, 9 and 12 after they arrive in the city, as well as the daily rapid antigen tests (RATs) they must do while under isolation.
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