However, travellers to Hong Kong will still face restrictions for seven days after arrival, with quarantine followed by medical surveillance.
From August 12th, Hong Kong will be reducing hotel quarantine for overseas arrivals to three days. This will be followed by four days of ‘medical surveillance’.
While the new restrictions represent a slight improvement on the previous arrangements, many international business visitors will still feel that they present a barrier to travel.
Under the new arrangements, travellers will be quarantined in designated hotels for three days, after which they will spend four further days under surveillance. Uninfected visitors will receive a notification on their risk exposure app, enabling ‘restricted activities in the community’ from Days 4 to 7. However, they must test negative during Days 4 to 7 in order to go to work, shop, take public transport, and they are still banned from high-risk areas such as bars and restaurants until the end of the seven day period. The health code on the app will change colour to blue when travellers have completed the entire ‘3+4’ arrangement.
Hong Kong’s leader John Lee has confirmed that he is also working on reopening the border with mainland China. However, Hong Kong health officials have been warning that daily Covid-19 cases could double to 8,000 in the coming weeks, and it will be interesting to see if the authority continues to relax restrictions if this happens.
Health chief Lo Chung-mau stated that taking PCR and rapid antigen tests as required were stipulated under the law, and those who broke this rule could be fined up to HK$25,000 or sentenced to six months in jail.
Pressed further on the rationale behind three days of hotel quarantine and why this should not be shorter, John Lee said the government recommendations were based on scientific data, which showed travellers’ risk level after three days “is no more than the risk level of transmission in society. Based on this analysis, we consider that the risk is under control, and balance it against the needs for other activities to take place. This new measure of 3+4 will be in the best interests of Hong Kong. I must emphasise that during the fourth day of medical surveillance, there are also PCR checks, so we will know if there are any changes in risks.”
John Lee also stopped short of saying whether he intends to further reduce the quarantine period, adding: “I try my best not to roll back measures.” This will come as a disappointment to many who were hoping to see the quarantine restrictions lifted completely, rather than being shortened. While a move in the right direction, it is still likely to deter many people from visiting Hong Kong showrooms and the Toy Fair in January, given the proximity of the trip to Christmas and the New Year, and the fact that networking and socialising would prove challenging within the framework of the new rules.