January Hong Kong trip in jeopardy as travel restrictions and quarantine measures expanded

Published on: 25th September 2020

Hong Kong quarantine restrictions for international travellers have been extended to 31st December, while the UK is to be placed on ‘high-risk’ travel list from 1st October. 

Hong Kong quarantine

International travellers to Hong Kong await their test results.

As infection rates and confirmed cases of Covid-19 continue to rise across the globe, the government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region has quietly extended its restrictions on foreign travellers to 31st December 2020, while Toy World has been told that the UK is about to be added to Hong Kong’s ‘high-risk’ travel list, starting from October 1st.

With regard to the quarantine regulations, a statement on the official Hong Kong government website reads: "(3) the expiry date of the Compulsory Quarantine of Persons Arriving at Hong Kong from Foreign Places Regulation (Cap. 599E) is extended from September 18, 2020 to December 31, 2020."

The move has not been widely reported in Hong Kong: there is a belief in some quarters that this may be an attempt to avoid push back from the tourism, hospitality, MICE (meetings, incentives, conferencing and exhibitions) and retail sectors.

Readers can view the full legislative amendments and specifications under Prevention and Control of Disease Ordinance here.

Hong Kong initially introduced a travel ban on visitors from 24th March, which was then extended and was due to expire in August. The measure was subsequently further extended to late September, and will now continue until the end of the year at the earliest. With Chinese New Year falling relatively late in 2021 (12th February), it is thought there could be pressure to open the borders by that point. However, that would come too late to salvage the traditional January buying trip.

As things stand, arrivals to Hong Kong have to undergo testing upon landing, before going straight into quarantine for 14 days. While the region's ‘testing on arrival’ strategy has been widely commended in the fight against the spread of coronavirus, it adds significant time to the length of travel to Hong Kong: visitors are tested straight after passing through customs, then have to wait in a hall for eight hours to receive the results. Overall, a typical ‘door to door’ journey from the UK would currently take 24 hours, followed by 14 days in quarantine before being allowed to go about one’s business. Few international travellers would relish the prospect of such an elongated trip: under current regulations, visitors wanting to open up a showroom in the first few days of January would need to fly out the week before Christmas and spend the next 14 days alone in a hotel room.

As of today, there is even worse news for travellers from the UK: Toy World has been told that Hong Kong will place the United Kingdom on its designated high-risk travel origin list, in response to rising numbers of Covid-19 cases in the UK, with effect from October 1st.

That means that travellers from the UK will be subject to extra travel restrictions. If you board an aircraft from, or have even visited, the UK during the previous 14 days before arriving in Hong Kong, you must carry a negative Covid-19 test certificate issued by a recognised institution. You must also have a confirmed room reservation at a hotel in Hong Kong for at least the duration of your 14-day quarantine period on arrival in the city. The same requirement has already applied to travellers from the other 10 countries on the list, including the US.

These developments inevitably put a serious question mark over the official Hong Kong Toys & Games Fair in January, as well as the showrooms in TST. There is a possibility that the quarantine regulations will be lifted from 1st January – but how many international travellers will be willing to commit to airline tickets and hotel reservations on the slim chance that happens? It is being rumoured that ‘air corridors’ may be established between Hong Kong and certain territories in the coming weeks, but even if that happens, the UK & US won’t be on the list of selected countries, given the prevailing virus situation in both countries.

It remains possible that the official show and the TST showroom week could be postponed until the spring, although this would be late for autumn winter FOB orders, many of which would have been finalised long before then. It is perhaps more feasible that the Toys & Games Fair could switch its focus to the Asian market, especially if reciprocal travel arrangements could be agreed with China and other Asian countries, as well as Australia and other nearby territories. However, the character of the show would arguably be different if it excluded UK and American visitors.



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